Before any of you shocked Coney Island buffs slit your wrists with rusty razor blades, it should be noted that the Cyclone (landmark roller coaster) and the Wonder Wheel (landmark ferris wheel), Parachute Jump (landmark, closed since 1964) and Nathan's original fast food restaurant will be unaffected.
When the harsh reality sets in, you'll realize that the property where Astroland is situated is prime beachfront real estate. Although Astroland is zoned for "amusements only" it now seems possible to work around it, (money talks and B. S. walks). Besides, by today's amusement park standards, Astroland is a small, filthy and insignificant conglomeration of twenty dull rides and dated attractions that seems to attract a seedy clientele...especially at night.
Coney Island has been an entertainment mecca for New Yorkers since the 1880's . Punctuated by its beach and boardwalk, it's located at the hub of several bus and subway lines and is convenient to the Belt Parkway. Coney Island it should be remembered, is NOT the name of a specific park. It is simply one of 37 or so sections or neighborhoods of Brooklyn...like Canarsie or Bensonhurst. Down through the years, some of the amusement parks in Coney Island were; Sea Lion Park, Luna Park and Steeplechase. However, somewhere down the line the individual names of the parks were forgotten and generalized to Coney Island. The last of these individual parks being Astroland.
Sea Lion Park burnt down in 1902 and was re-built as Luna Park, (1903-1944).
POSTCARD OF LUNA PARK'S BOARDWALK ENTRANCE ...(circa 1914)
How amazing it must have been to visit Luna Park. Just the fact that it had thousands of light bulbs was a novelty when electricity was so new.
Overshadowing everything else on Coney Island was the more famous Steeplechase Park (1897-1964). Originally owned by George C. Tilyou, (the first impresario of controlled chaos), Steeplechase, a huge semi-enclosed structure made a name for itself with wild and dangerous rides that would boggle the mind of contemporary insurance companies and attract today's lawsuit-happy scam-artists like flies on...
STEEPLECHASE PARK ADVERTISEMENT PLACARD, THE FAMOUS ANIMATED FACE LOGO WAS A CARICATURE OF GEORGE TILYOU.
In 1965, Fred Trump (Donald's father) bought the site with the intention of building apartment buildings. However, the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce held firm and wouldn't allow a variance that would eliminate the area's "amusements only" zoning status. Trump decided to demolish Steeplechase before it could be declared a landmark. He held a "demolition party" and invited guests to throw bricks through the once opulent pleasure palace's facade
POSTCARD, EARLY 1920's, STEEPLECHASE FROM SURF AVENUE (Cyclone roller coaster far left). ENCLOSED BY STEEL AND GLASS, THE INTERIOR PART OF THE PARK ALONE WAS FIVE ACRES.
THE PARACHUTE JUMP - Purchased from the 1939 World's Fair. It was originally intended as a training device for paratroopers. One or two riders sat on a wooden plank (and held on for dear life). I was about five when my dad took me up there on his lap. The slow rise to the top (approx 250 feet) was agonizingly slow as the cross breeze rocked us side-to-side. As the ground got smaller, I looked up to the heavens for relief but all I could see was the ever-nearing intricate mesh of metal wires at the top-that when we hit it, would cause us to drop. The free-fall until the parachute opened was probably three seconds...some people refer to that as the "rush" but not me, I was never so scared in my life. Despite the calm descent the rest of the way--that once in a lifetime experience was terrible --I was lucky I didn't soil myself...and dad was even luckier!
The Parachute Jump closed with Steeplechase Park in 1964. It was considered too expensive to tear down and was given "Landmark" status in 1977.
ON A CLEAR DAY, THE PARACHUTE JUMP'S SKELETON IS VISIBLE FROM HIGH PLACES IN BROOKLYN
LOOKS LIKE A GREAT WAY TO GET RID OF AN UNWANTED "LOVED" ONE
THE HORSE RACE CIRCLED THE ENCLOSED PORTION OF STEEPLECHASE