Jerry Albert, who founded the Astroland amusement park in Coney Island, died last week, the Coney Island History Project announced. The cause was complications from Parkinson’s, the Times reports, the disease which pushed him to retire and hand over operations of the park to his wife Carol, who ran it until its closure in 2008.
Jerry, who grew up in Sea Gate, opened the space-age park with his father Dewey in 1964, after a plan to relocate Nathan’s fell through. “It was Jerome’s idea to tap into the growing fascination with space travel,” the Times reports. The Astroland Tower took riders 270 feet into the sky; a rocketship on the boardwalk, a former ride relocated in the 70s, invited in passersby. Jerry is also credited with helping to preserve the Cyclone roller coaster, renovating its wooden tracks and reopening the ride to the public.
Opening an amusement park in Coney Island in 1964 was unusual. “Resurrecting Coney Island became his quest… while many were giving up and closing their businesses,” Coney historian Charles Denson writes. “Coney Island was fading in the early 1960s, and was in desperate need of a lift.” The rides’ relatively low prices and the park’s free admission helped keep it popular during rough periods in Coney Island.
In 2006, the Alberts sold Astroland to sinister developer Thor for $30 million. Its final season was in 2008, after which it was demolished. Luna Park now stands in its place.
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