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Coney Island coaster may be closed for holiday

The operators of the Coney Island amusement park said last night that they've decided to remove part of a long-closed, swaying 275-foot observation tower, making it likely that the Cyclone roller coaster, Wonder Wheel and other rides will be shuttered Thursday.

A Luna Park spokeswoman said last night a portion of the Astrotower will be removed "as soon as possible," so that the closed areas can reopen. It was not clear which portion of the tower would be removed, or precisely when.

Police Wednesday afternoon began closing down two blocks of the boardwalk and stretching tape around the block near the Astrotower, which shifted from time to time in the wind.

Authorities evacuated the park Tuesday after a report that the tower was swaying.

July Fourth is one of the busiest days of the year at the park.

"We're going to do everything we can to keep this park open," Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri said, but authorities said they needed to keep a chunk of it closed and rope off part of Coney Island's boardwalk until they could be sure there was no danger.

While the beach, a carousel, some other amusements and Nathan's Famous -- home of the July Fourth hot-dog-eating contest -- were open, the developments had tourists trying to figure out whether to rejigger plans and vendors wishing they wouldn't have to.

"You've waited for a whole year. You just wait for this day," Victor Summers said as he stood next to the 3-D simulator ride he's operated in the shadow of the Astrotower since 1996.

"The Fourth of July -- it's like Christmas for Coney Island."

Installed in 1964, the Astrotower was a focal point of space-themed attractions that updated the area and helped it endure tough years later on. The tower was equipped with an observation car that looped around the top to offer visitors 360-degree views of the Atlantic Ocean and Brooklyn. It instantly became a New York classic -- "the big bagel in the sky," a newspaper of the time called it. -- AP

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