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Hope fading fast for Astroland

The Brooklyn Paper
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“It’ll take a miracle.”

That’s been Carol Albert’s position for the last two weeks – ever since Astroland’s owner brought the gates down on the popular Surf Avenue amusement park – presumably for the very last time.

Nevertheless, Albert has held up the sale of favorite Astroland rides like the Break Dance and Dante’s Inferno, on the slimmest of chances that the Bloomberg administration might work some magic and breathe life back into the park.

But last week when the Bay News contacted Lynn Kelly, president of the Coney Island Development Corporation, there seemed to neither the will nor the ability to resuscitate Astroland.

“The lease between Thor Equities and Astroland is a private transaction and the city cannot directly intervene,” she said. “But if Thor extends Astroland’s lease until the rezoning plan is passed, the city can keep it alive until the larger, permanent amusement area is created.”

Fears of a blighted Coney Island without Astroland next summer are intense, and some fear that Dennis Vourderis’ Wonder Wheel Park will become the next to sell.

Vourderis told this newspaper that Thor Equities and its principal Joe Sitt have routinely sought to buy him out, but that he didn’t like the idea of one person controlling all of Coney Island.

While many continue to hope the city can in some way help facilitate a lease extension for Albert, the city’s main emphasis appears to be on what it feels is the urgent need to push through its redevelopment plan for Coney Island.

“If Thor and Astroland are unwilling or unable to get a deal done, that’s even more a reason why the plan, which would enlarge the amusement district, needs to happen, and we’ll work to have interim amusements in that case too,” Kelly said.

Some argue that the city’s sense of urgency now rings somewhat hollow in light of the grand development plans Albert had to remake Astroland before her family decided to sell their 3.1-acre property to Joe Sitt and Thor Equities in 2006.

Charles Denson, of the Coney Island History Project, recently talked about the plan at the Municipal Art Society, and says that it had full financial backing and was ready to go but was instead shunted aside by the city in favor of Thor.

“The city has been working with the landowners in the Coney Island amusement area to preserve the integrity and history of this storied destination since the strategic plan was first initiated in 2005,” Kelly said. “Astroland’s sale took place prior to the rezoning going through, which barred them from bringing any plans for development to fruition.”

Thor Equities did not respond to requests for comment.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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