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Archive for April 2008

A Desire Named Streetcar

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By Henry Stewart, Special to Bay Currents

Surf Ave. Trolley Pole
A rusted trolley pole on Surf Ave., currently used to hold street signs

As Arthur Melnick drove down Surf Avenue with this writer on a recent rainy afternoon, he acted as a tour guide to the Coney Island of his youth, pointing out, amid the vacant lots, where the old swimming pools, arcades and rides used to be.

“All these empty lots were attractions,”he said. “All this was Coney Island…”

Melnick, 62, hopes to restore a small piece of Coney Island’s storied past by bringing back trolley service to its streets, a project he has been working on for six years.

Now, he might be closer than ever before to realizing his dream — the trolleys appear to fit in with several of Mayor Bloomberg’s current priorities, from going green and relieving traffic congestion to promoting a revitalized Coney Island.

“People would come to the area just to ride the trolley,” Melnick said. “It’s a tourist attraction in itself.”

It’s just a matter of convincing the city to give the OK.

Read More by downloading this pdf (and jumping to pg. 7)


Photo from the Trolley Pole page on Flickr

Written by Henry

April 10, 2008 at 8:52 pm

Posted in Coney Island

The Beginning of the End for Astroland?

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Astroland Tower

click to watch slideshow

Astroland, Coney Island’s premier amusement park, kicked off its season this year on March 16.

While most of Coney Island’s 20th Century institutions—from amusement parks like Luna Park, Dreamland and Steeplechase to the Thunderbolt roller coaster and Child’s restaurant—are long gone, Astroland keeps kicking more than 45 years after Dewey Albert first opened its doors in 1962.

Astroland “has survived the decades of destruction, rebuilding and destruction again,” said a visitor who called himself Byron the Traveler. “It’s survived the test of time through the decades.”

This may, however, be its final season.

Almost no one expected Astroland to re-open this year. In 2006, the Albert family sold the park to a developer, Thor Equities, for $30 million. Thor was not expected to re-open the park for the 2008 season, but ultimately decided to grant Astroland at least a one year reprieve while it settles its zoning battles with the city.

Will Astroland be open again in the years to come?

“Unless there’s an interim plan to establish Astroland here for another three to five years,” said Carol Hill Albert, Astroland’s current lessee and former co-owner, “I don’t see how we can.”

Thor declined to comment on its plans for Astroland.

Click here to watch an audio slideshow that captures opening day.

Written by Henry

April 9, 2008 at 1:54 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Rockaway Retiree Learns to Paint

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John Russo hates puzzles.

So, years ago, he would doodle whenever his family would put one together. He saved those “doodles”—both drawings and paintings—and, many years later, his third wife, Marilyn, found them in a box. And she thought they were good.

To prove it, she took him to a local art show near their home in Queens.

“What’s the difference with this, with what you got at home?” she asked him.

She framed one of his watercolors and put it in the next show, where it generated generous praise for Russo.

“Believe it or not,” he said, “I still didn’t think I could do it.”

Four years later, he’s done it.

Keep reading

Written by Henry

April 8, 2008 at 5:34 pm

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