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April 1, 2007

Coney Island's Astroland Park Reopens For Final Season

Brooklyn, NY -- Coney Island's Astroland amusement park opened today for what will likely be its final season. The traditional Palm Sunday opening began with the breaking of a bottle of egg cream over the lead car of the Cyclone roller coaster.

Many showed up early hoping to be one of the first in line for the Cyclone. The first 100 riders of the season receive a free ride.

Eric Knapp returned for his third year of being the first one to stand in line for the first ride on the Cyclone.

Temperatures were a bit chilly with high's in the 40's and overcast skies with some rainfall. Despite the weather thousands showed up for the opening.

For the Albert family, Astroland's owners it was a difficult day knowing it was the kick-off of the park's farewell season.

"This is a very emotional day," said Carol Albert.

Last November the family announced that they sold the 45-year old amusement park to developer Thor Equities. The Albert's will turn over the keys to Astroland after one more season.

Thor plans to demolish what's left of the amusement park at the end of the summer.

According to Albert, most of the rides at Astroland will be sold and relocated to other parks by their new owners, but a few will remain at Coney Island.

The historic Cyclone wooden roller coaster is staying. Its designation as a National Historic Landmark protects it from redevelopment. Albert says it will continue to operate the Cyclone under their existing agreement with New York City.

The Cyclone is the only part of Astroland that stays and will eventually be part of a new boardwalk.

The neighboring Wonder Wheel at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park will remain as well, as will the former Steeplechase parachute jump tower, which serves as a reminder of Coney Island's past.

Thor Equities plans to replace Astroland with a $2 billion amusement, retail and residential project along the Coney Island Boardwalk. Astroland is one of several properties recently acquired by Thor. His plans also include an indoor water park attached to a hotel.

Thor's plan to build residential housing in the amusement district has drawn some opposition from locals and Coney Island preservationists. Last Friday, more than a hundred rallied at City Hall against Thor's plans.

"Coney Island has an amazing history that needs to be preserved," said Angie Pontini, Miss Cyclone 2007. "A luxury condo in the heart of the amusement district is not what people from around the world go to Coney Island to see."

See related: Astroland Amusement Park

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