The iconic, cartoonish Coney Island Rocket was removed from its long time perch atop a fast-food stand in Astroland on Tuesday as part of the dismantling of the theme park that went out of business last fall.
Its destination is unknown, but the caretakers of the shuttle, which was a ride before becoming an ornament on a concession kiosk, say they’re in “serious negotiations” with an unidentified party who might welcome the intergalactic projectile to another location in Coney Island.
“It looks like it [might] be staying. It’s a survivor, and it’ll keep the Astroland name alive,” wrote Charlie Denson, executive director of the Coney Island History Project, on his organization’s website. “It’s a time capsule, everything inside is absolutely preserved.”
Unlike Astroland’s rides, which are being mothballed in lieu of being sold, the park’s operator Carol Albert donated the rocket to the Coney Island History Project, a group she founded. Project organizers must move the spaceship by Jan. 31, the day Albert’s lease expires on the amusement park site, near West 10th Street and Surf Avenue.
Albert sold her land several years ago to Joe Sitt of Thor Equities, which gave Albert two year-to-year leases. This fall, Sitt declined to renew Albert’s lease, though it is unclear whether he will do anything with her land this summer.
Indeed, the removal of Astroland’s iconic signage is the latest example of what critics of Sitt say is a coming “Summer of Shame” as the landlord raises rents along the Boardwalk, making it unclear whether there will be thriving businesses, like the bars Ruby’s and Cha Cha’s, when the season kicks in again.
Dianna Carlin, whose Lola Staar boutique became an outpost of opposition to Sitt, has not been offered a lease.
Meanwhile, the Manhattan-based Municipal Art Society has weighed in with its vision for “saving” Coney Island, putting out a press release and showing off a series of outrageous (and, like one of the “world’s tallest building” and another of a bullet train from Manhattan operating on regular subway lines, unbuildable) renderings of what the group thinks should happen in the hardscrabble amusement zone.
The group’s “Imagine Coney Island” project overlaps with the city’s current plan, in that it also recommends that the Bloomberg Administration buy up land in the amusement zone and calls for new signature rides — though neither the city nor the Municipal Art Society has explained where the money is going to come from.
“The extraordinary array of ‘Imagine Coney’ submissions from the public is a reminder of Coney Island’s unique potential as New York’s great waterfront destination,” said MAS President Vin Cipolla. “Building on the city’s work so far, we must take the steps necessary to realize that potential and create a truly original destination and economic engine for New Yorkers and tourists alike.”
UPDATED ON JAN. 14 AT 1:20 PM: The updated story includes information about the Municipal Art Society’s “Imagine Coney” project.