A new book tracks Coney Island from the 1860s to present day. NY1’s Jeanine Ramirez filed the following report.
The Astroland sign still sits atop the Cyclone roller coaster. It's a tribute to the man who rescued the park from destruction, taking it over and restoring it when the city wanted to pave it over for a parking lot.
"In 1975 the Cyclone had closed, and it was slated for demolition, and Dewey Albert stepped in and saved it,” said Charles Denson, author of the new book “Coney Island and Astroland.”
That's one of many stories the historian offers in his new book, which is a timeline of Coney Island from the 1860's to the present with an emphasis on Astroland, a space age theme park that opened in 1962.
"The Albert family built the Astrotower,” said Denson. “They had diving bells, they had a space sky ride. All of these new attractions and they really made up for the loss of Steeplechase Park."
That park was one of the original amusement areas. The Astrotower still exists, but it's no longer operational. It now stands in the new Luna Park, built on the old Astroland site.
"They called it the bagel in the sky because it had a circular car,” said Denson. “In the opening, Jerry Albert served bagels and lox at the opening ceremony."
It’s this kind of history that Denson hopes to preserve in what's now his third book on Coney Island. Denson is the director of the Coney Island History Project, an exhibition center under the landmark Wonder Wheel on West 12th Street.
Denson records oral histories of people who remember Coney Island’s past and collects memorabilia to pass on to future generations. He now oversees Astroland's archives and has been working on the book since Astroland closed two years ago.
"There are all these stories in there about Jackie Kennedy's visit to Coney Island in 1966 when she was eating hot dogs at Nathan's," said Denson.
You can read all about it by picking up a copy at bookstores or at the exhibition center.
The Coney Island History Project is open on weekends and holidays from 12:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. and is free.