It's that time of year again, when, with a regularity that rivals the swallows' return to Capistrano, the operator of the Astroland amusement area on Coney Island stares into her future and beholds a murky void. The tradition, which dates all the way back to 2007, is deeply troubling for Carol Albert, who has no idea whether developer Joe Sitt will renew her lease on the land that Astroland has occupied for 46 years. Sitt's company Thor Equities bought the property two years ago.
“Here we are on the edge of the great precipice again,” Albert tells the Brooklyn Paper, referring to last year's 11th hour reprieve, when she was granted another year's lease by Sitt, who's been at odds with the Bloomberg administration over a highly controversial and still-unsettled development plan for Coney Island. Sitt wants to develop his own amusement park on the property, but Bloomberg wants the land to be turned over to the Parks Department. Opponents of Bloomberg's plan insist the city's proposed amusement area is too small and will be devoid of that quintessential Coney Island "character."
The official public review of the city proposal is underway, but it's unlikely to be completed by next summer. In the meantime, Albert's lease runs out at the end of the year, and a spokesman for Thor would not say whether it will be renewed again like last year. If it isn't, Albert forsees "vacant land, and if we go dark, it will be sad for Coney Island." Sitt should take heed; if Astroland becomes a vacant lot, the ghosts of Coney Island past are sure to haunt his bedside come Memorial Day Eve.