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I-Report: Your photos, memories of Coney Island

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(CNN) -- The quirky seaside expanse of Coney Island, which draws visitors from throughout the U.S. seeking out its colorful rides and freaky entertainers, may soon be losing one of its key attractions.


Chuck Geller of New Jersey sent this photo of the Mermaid Parade, an offbeat Coney Island tradition.

Astroland Amusement Park, which closes for the season on Sunday, could be open for one of its last summers. The land underneath the park has been sold to a new developer, and the lease is set to expire January 30.

Questions about Astroland's future prompted to ask readers to share their photos and memories of Coney Island.

Readers responded with stories of heading into this colorful district to grab a hot dog and spend a day checking out the kiddie rides, fright houses and carnival games. Find Coney Island attractions on a map »

Many recalled living near an area considered by some to be a garish tourist attraction. Cassandra Silverman of The Colony, Texas, grew up at Coney Island. She remembers playing on the beach as a child. Listen to Silverman describe her childhood on Coney Island »

Her great-grandparents moved to Seagate, a residential community on the western side of Coney Island, after leaving Romania. Her family then continued the tradition of living in the Coney Island area. Silverman's grandfather was a vaudeville entertainer who performed ventriloquist acts, and her grandmother was a burlesque dancer.

Finally, when Silverman was 17, she moved away with her mom. She says life on Coney Island seemed normal at the time, but she can hardly imagine raising her children there now that she lives in Texas. Still, she looks back fondly on the time spent at the beach and at the amusement parks, and finds it difficult to imagine Coney Island without Astroland.

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"If they take Astroland away, [Coney Island] won't be the same," Silverman said. "I won't have a reason to go back but to visit my family."

Al Slavin of Sunrise, Florida, photographed Coney Island in the 1980s when he lived near it. He said he feels the area has declined somewhat, and hopes that rebuilding can take place in a sensible manner that takes moderate incomes into account. Fifty years of proximity to Coney Island gave him countless memories of good times.

"Nathan's is great, and you can go play on the roller coaster," Slavin said, later adding, "It's like a great playland and you can really, really enjoy yourself in that kind of atmosphere."

Quite a few area residents said they were transfixed by the idea of Coney Island in winter. One such person is New Yorker Joseph Cassar, who captured striking black-and-white stills in February 2005. He was making a return after not visiting for decades.
Photo See I-Report photos of Coney Island through the years »

"I had not been back since I was a kid and that was about 40 years ago," Cassar wrote. "The fog made it look like a dream. It was somewhat recognizable. Down the boardwalk I saw the Parachute ride. As a kid I was too scared to go on it, but my sister did. Now here it was naked without any floppy cloth parachutes or dangling guide wires. In the fog it looked like a giant steel flower without petals. It was good to see something from the past still standing, regardless of its state of undress."

Fellow New York resident Renee Cole captured a stark image of amusement rides' skeletons silhouetted in black and white. Her picture shows the imposing presence of Astroland, with its distinctive rocket sign and the Astrotower rising from its center. The wooden arcs of the Cyclone roller coaster peek out from behind a chain-linked fence.
Video Watch I-Reporter Wendy Chao's video of the view from the Cyclone's front seat »

Carol Albert, who owns and operates the park along with her husband, said she hopes to keep Astroland open for another year to keep the area active and lively. She had hoped to move the park to a new location, but found she was unable to do so.

"We're not going to go out with a bang. We're just closing for the season on Sunday and keeping our hopes up that the lease will get extended," Albert said.

Albert said she would continue to operate the Cyclone roller coaster, which is protected on the National Register of Historic Places and cannot be closed. Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, a separate attraction near Astroland, would not be closed along with Astroland.

The new developers, Thor Equities, have hinted that a revamped entertainment complex could go in Astroland's place, but the future for the land is uncertain. A company spokesman said in an e-mailed statement that Thor Equities is talking with Albert.

"We're working with Carol Albert on the possibility of keeping Astroland open for an additional season. That being said, Thor Equities will ensure that amusements and games will be available for Coney Island residents, tourists and anyone else interested in visiting this iconic piece of New York City."


Some people are happy that changes may be taking place at Coney Island. Dick Zigun, producer of Sideshows by the Seashore, told CNN he would welcome something modern and exciting.

"If they're going to build a 21st-century amusement park with steel looping roller coasters, then oh boy, I'm in favor of that," he said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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