Astroland, R.I.P.

I don’t get sentimental over very many things, but the announcement that today is the final day of Astroland’s operation has really opened up the floodgates. For years, I knew this was coming, and yet I didn’t believe that Coney Island could change, even as I saw it changing.

When I get homesick, it’s for the townie things, the minutia. Getting breakfast anytime. Giving ludicrous directions to clueless tourists. The olfactory delights of the subway. The beach in wintertime. The view from the top of the Wonder Wheel.

I introduced my sister to the kiddie rides in Coney Island when she was six years old. When she was old enough, I introduced her to the Wonder Wheel, which we now ride together whenever I go home. The Wonder Wheel, which has landmark status, isn’t going anywhere, but the scrappy swath of waterfront around it is being developed into a mix of housing, hotels, and high-end retail.

The clip above is from The Warriors, a 1979 cult classic about NYC gangs. After a gang meeting in the Bronx, the Warriors must return to their Coney Island turf while battling rival gangs who believe that the Warriors killed charismatic gang leader Cyrus. It’s one of my favorite films, and I have the sudden and overwhelming urge to watch it again for the umpteenth time.

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12 thoughts on “Astroland, R.I.P.

  1. haha. my older brothers liked the warriors. how funny. it’s really campy and actually sort of good.

    the part i remember is when that guy is clinking bottles that are on his fingers while singing “warriors, come out to pla-ee-ay.” haha.

  2. Also, the DJ was later the detective on Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?, and the woman in this clip was on Too Close for Comfort.

    The best line is when the Warriors are in the Bronx and planning their return trip. One of them says, “Coney Island must be 50, 100 miles from here.” It perfectly captures big-city provincialism.

    It’s a cheesy film, but awesome. The music and cinematography are great, and I love its quasi-futuristic, dystopian grit. I have it on VHS [the original release, not the director’s cut or the new version with the comic transitions], if anyone wants to borrow it.

  3. I also feel the loss. Visited the old neighborhood last year, and fully aware of Astroland’s future did my last “go around”.
    It was my number one destination in a break-neck four day tour of Brooklyn to Manhattan.
    The Cyclone is what I will miss the most. Can’t help but feel that a part of my childhood has been lost forever, and to make way for more overpriced housing no less.

  4. Ben, you’re absolutely right — the Cyclone, like the Wonder Wheel, has landmark status and is not closing. I wonder what the effect will be, with these two lonely, historic rides abutting the shiny, new high-end retail I keep reading about.

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