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Astroland will close for good on Sunday.
The operator of the 46-year-old amusement park announced on Thursday afternoon that she would shut down the gritty theme park because Thor Equities, its landlord, would not meet her deadline for a two-year lease extension.
“I have given up on trying to get Thor to negotiate which I have attempted to do every month since June, and numerous times in August,” Carol Albert wrote in a statement. “Each time their response was, ‘We have no answer.’”
Albert has been Thor’s tenant for the last two years after she sold the land under the 3.1-acre theme park to Joe Sitt’s company for $30 million in 2006. Her current lease lasts until Jan. 31, though the seasonal park with 75 full-time employees and 275 summer workers typically closes after Labor Day.
Last year, Albert also played brinksmanship with Thor after the summer season ended. But in that case, Thor Equities did offer a one-year lease extension in October that enabled this season’s fun.
This time, Albert said she was unwilling to wait to make a deal and set Thursday as the deadline.
It came and passed without an offer from Thor. Now, she’s holding a fire sale to unload her rides.
“I have 16 trailers of everything from teddy bears to tools, plus 22 rides and I’m selling everything,” she told The Brooklyn Paper.
Sitt’s spokesman Stefan Friedman said he was disappointed.
“Carol Albert was walking away from Coney Island,” Friedman said.
Friedman also said there would be new amusements and attractions next summer at the Astroland site, near the corner of Surf Avenue and West 10th Street.
But Thor had dubbed the season as the “Summer of Hope,” and Sitt’s efforts to infuse optimism on the sandy peninsula with new rides and attractions was widely criticized for the poor quality of the amusements and their short stints in the area.
Sitt is one of the major landowners in Coney Island’s amusement area and, like Albert, many other businesses along the Boardwalk have year-to-year leases with him.
They were scrambling to regroup and chart a course of action in the aftermath of the Astroland announcement compounded the uncertainty about their own futures.
“We all hope we’re going to get our leases renewed,” said Diana Carlin, the operator of the Lola Staar boutique on the Boardwalk, a Thor tenant, and the Dreamland Roller Rink, which is not owned by Thor.
The battle over Astroland is playing out as the larger war over the long-term future of Coney Island is still being fought between Sitt and Mayor Bloomberg. Both sides are pushing slightly different plans to redevelop the fabled, yet rundown, “People’s Playground” into a modern, year-round tourist destination.
The city seized upon Astroland’s closing as a way to push for its own rezoning plan.
“Today’s announcement that Astroland will close after 46 years should be a serious wake-up call to those who have stood back and watched as the fate of Coney Island has been left in limbo without any safeguards for its future,” said Lynn Kelly, president of the Coney Island Development Corporation. “This further underscores the need for the city’s comprehensive rezoning plan as the only hope for preserving the amusement area and bringing the necessary jobs, infrastructure and affordable housing to the neighborhood.”
But that plan calls for building a city-owned amusement park that would have forced Astroland out too, a proposal which gets just as much scathing criticism as Thor’s impasse with its tenants.
“I also condemn the city because it has no authentic vision for how to keep the amusement industry vibrant and in business,” said Dick Zigun, who founded the Coney Island Circus Sideshow and resigned in protest earlier this summer from the Coney Island Development Corporation’s board over the city’s own proposal.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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