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May 18: Astroland

May 17, 2015

Astroland_Park_Coney_Island_NY__18438.1407536799.1280.1280Jerome Lewis Albert, who with his father created Astroland, a 3.1-acre amusement park with a Space Age theme that became the salvation of the Coney Island boardwalk during the 1960s, was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1937. The park, which opened in 1962, included the John Glenn Sky Ride, Astroland Rocket (which used movie strips to simulate a trip to the moon), the Deep Sea Diving Bells, the Water Flume, and the Astrotower, which had a circular aerial observation car — all for a typical price of 50¢ per ride. “Over the next 46 years, Astroland sponsored air shows, precision parachute-team jumps, rock concerts, film festivals and fireworks displays,” writes Dennis Hevesi in Albert’s 2012 New York Times obituary. With Steeplechase Park demolished, crime rising, the beach becoming more polluted, and the neighborhood falling apart, Astroland became Coney Island’s main tourism anchor. In 1975, Albert and his father took over the Cyclone, restored its wood frame, and kept the ride running (at speeds of up to 60 mph and an initial drop of 85 feet). Astroland was sold in 2006 and shuttered in 2009. To see a classic television ad for Astroland, look below. To venture back to the 1940s at Coney Island, look below that.

“The saying is he had sand in his shoes, and once you get sand in your shoes, you can never get it out.” --Charles Denson, director of the Coney Island History Project