Retro rocket could rock passengers again

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The next time the Astroland Rocket returns to Coney Island, you might be able to get in and blast off to the moon.

City officials say that they are “looking at all options to make the Rocket accessible to the public once it returns to the area.”

That could be as early as next year, according to sources at the New York City Economic Development Corporation.

“It’s in amazing condition,” Astroland operator Carol Hill Albert said.

Last week, Albert announced that the city had agreed to accept the 71-foot-long proto-virtual reality ride and place it in storage while plans to rezone and redevelop Coney Island wind through ULURP - Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.

“This one of a kind Rocket simulator was the very first ride to arrive at Astroland Park, when it was founded by my late father in- law Dewey Albert in 1962,” Carol Hill Albert said. “My husband Jerome and myself are donating this in his honor and on behalf the Coney Island History Project. It is especially fitting that this Rocket, which was the first to arrive, will be the last item to leave Astroland Park.”

City officials say that possible locations for the Astroland Rocket’s return will be evaluated while it is kept in storage at the Staten Island Homeport in Stapleton. A bronze plaque honoring Dewey Albert is expected to be attached to the Rocket sometime in the next few months.

Fran Hackett, spokesperson for the New York Aquarium, remembers what it was like to be a five-year-old kid buckling up for a three-minute ride into outer space a couple of years after the Rocket debuted in 1962.

“I loved it,” she said. “It shook back and forth. At that time it was new to everyone. It was fantastic.”

Community Board 13 District Manager Chuck Reichenthal - gearing up to host the first in a series of public hearing on the city’s Coney Island redevelopment plan - welcomed news that the Astroland Rocket will be saved.

“The Rocket remains in Coney Island,” Reichenthal proclaimed at Community Board 13’s January meeting held inside Coney Island Hospital. “It’s going nowhere. It will be put into storage until the exact site is found. At least that part of Coney’s heritage is maintained.”

While the future of at least one iconic Coney Island ride appears assured this week, the same cannot be said about the Astro Tower.

“Nobody can really take it,” Albert said. “I tried to donate it to several different entities.”

Under the terms of Astroland’s least with landlord Joe Sitt and Thor Equities, the 3.1 acre site that had been home to the amusement park for over 45 years had to be cleared out by the end of January. Anything left behind after that became the property of the landowner.

A representative for Thor Equities told this newspaper that he was unsure about the developer’s plans for the Astro Tower and that “a decision would be made closer to summer.”

The Astro Tower was originally built for the 1963 World’s Fair and afforded riders a panoramic view of Coney Island after it was moved to Astroland Amusement Park later that year.

While expressing sadness about the disappearance of Astroland, Albert said she is “thrilled” that the Rocket ride that first carried starry-eyed passengers to into the stratosphere almost 50 years ago, will one day return to Coney Island.

Updated 3:32 pm, October 19, 2011
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