What was here before?
This site is named for the Cyclone roller coaster, one of Coney Island’s most famous attractions. Covering 2,640 feet of track in a minute and fifty seconds, the Cyclone carries 24 passengers and reaches speeds of 60 mph. Its biggest drop is 85 feet at a descent angle of 58.6 degrees.
The Cyclone was constructed in 1927 by Harry C. Baker and Vernon Keenan and is one of the country’s few surviving vintage wood-track rollercoasters, with modern building codes making it irreplaceable. The ride’s distinctive frame, sound, and speed were renowned, with famous aviator Charles Lindbergh commenting, “A ride on the Cyclone is a greater thrill than flying an airplane at top speed.”
How did this become a park?
The city purchased the land and the famous thrill ride from then-owner Silvio Pinto in 1971 but continued to lease the ride back to him for many years. In 1975, Dewey Albert’s Astroland amusement park won the bid to operate the Cyclone. During this time, the Cyclone was nearly demolished due to the economic decline of Coney Island’s amusement industry. The nearby New York Aquarium attempted to acquire the Cyclone site through a federal grant to expand their facility to include a trout stream, a freshwater swamp, and a saltwater estuary.
However, in 1978, NYC Parks Commissioner Gordon J. Davis filed a letter requesting that the grant be cancelled, citing changes in prevailing attitudes about the destruction of the historic Cyclone. In addition, it was believed that the destruction of the Cyclone, without immediate plans to develop the land, would be devastating to the Coney Island economy. These efforts saved The Cyclone from demolition and it became a New York City Landmark in 1988. In 1991, it was listed on the New York State Register of Historic Places.
Astroland ultimately closed in 2008 because a new lease deal couldn’t be reached. A revitalization plan was put into place to increase visitorship and preserve and grow the historic amusement area.
On May 29, 2010, Luna Park opened with nineteen improved and updated rides that were designed, developed, and operated by Central Amusement International.
Today, the Cyclone stands as one of the last remnants of “The Nation’s Playground,” as Coney Island was known in its heyday. In recognition of the iconic landmark, the Mets’ minor league baseball team, which plays at nearby MCU Stadium, bears the Cyclones name. While the sprawling amusement parks have largely vanished, the Cyclone remains one of the area’s most popular and prized attractions.