For nearly 50 years, it's been the main attraction along Coney Island's famed boardwalk, but on Sunday the fun's over at Astroland.
Co-owner Carol Hill Albert said she's giving up on extending the park's lease after multiple attempts to work out a deal with the developer who owns the 3.1 acre seaside property fizzled out.
"The safety of our customers and our commitment to employees means our time has run out," Albert said in a statement Thursday.
"Ride parts must be ordered a minimum of eight to 10 months in advance," Albert said. "My employees cannot live in a state of limbo any longer."The good news is, Astroland's famous Cyclone rollercoaster won't be making its final turn and drop. Protected as a city landmark, the Cyclone, which opened in 1927, will continue to be operated by the Albert family.
Albert started breaking the bad news to the park's 370 employees Thursday, as word quickly spread to nearby residents and businesses, worried about the financial impact the closure would have on next summer.
"It would be a real struggle," said Dianna Carlin, owner of Lola Staar Souvenir Boutique on the boardwalk. "That's one of the major draws that pulls people to Coney Island."
"It sucks that it's closing," said Dariana DeLarosa, 19, of Brooklyn. "We used to come here every weekend when we were kids."
While Astroland's fate was sealed Thursday, owners of individual games and rides operating on nearby property also owned by the same developer, Thor Equities, said they are still unclear about their futures, saying they had not yet been offered leases for 2009.
In addition, a spokesman for Thor, Stefan Friedman, said the developer is committed to providing amusements in Coney Island next summer. Thor brought dozens of temporary rides and other traveling entertainment to another swath of land it owns in the amusement area this summer, but most of the rides had been yanked by early August.
"Not renewing Astroland's lease is absolutely premature," said Lynn Kelly, president of the city-run Coney Island Development Corp., which is pushing for a zoning change that would protect the amusement district and pave the way for a new city-owned amusement park.
"It makes no sense because the zoning won't be complete until the end of next summer," Kelly said. "That's just another move on Thor Equities' part in their grand plan to vacate the property, to do no amusements and to get eventually what they want, which is zoning for a shopping mall. And they're riding out this \[mayoral\] administration in order to do it."
Thor said it has its own plans for a $1.5-billion, 10-acre development that includes an amusement park, a water theme park, retail stores, hotels and other offerings should the city's zoning proposal fall through.
Dennis Vourderis, who said he plans to reopen his Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park next summer, remained hopeful that the storied Brooklyn waterfront will still be a draw without Astroland.
"I believe people will still come to the beach, the boardwalk, the Aquarium, the Cyclone, KeySpan Park, Nathan's," he said. "Coney Island still has a lot to offer."