The Cyclone

The Cyclone

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This parkland, located on Surf Avenue and 10th Street, is named for the Cyclone roller coaster, one of Coney Island’s most famous attractions. Covering 3000 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 58.1 degrees, making the Cyclone the second-steepest wooden roller coaster in the world.

Before the Cyclone was built in 1927, this site was home to the first roller coaster in the United States, the Switchback Railway, constructed in 1884. The Cyclone was constructed by Harry C. Baker and Vernon Keenan. Irving and Jack Rosenthal held the lease on the land, which was then owned by the Coast Holding Company. The city purchased the land and the famous thrill ride from a new owner, Silvio Pinto, for $1.2 million in 1969. For many years the city leased the ride back to Pinto for $25,000 a year. In 1975, Dewey Albert’s Astroland amusement park won the bidding to operate the Cyclone, and the park continues to hold the lease today.

Today, the Cyclone stands as one of the last remnants of “The Nation’s Playground,” as Coney Island was known in its heyday. Some famed amusement parks, including Dreamland and Luna Park, were destroyed by fire, and Steeplechase Park was unable to survive the area’s economic decline in the 1960s. The once sprawling amusement parks have largely vanished, but the Cyclone remains one of the area’s most popular and prized attractions.

In the mid-1970s, the Cyclone, after entertaining approximately 10 millions riders from all over the world, 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 and expand the aquarium. The plan called for development of the site into “a piece of Long Island like it was before the white-man came.” The area was to have a trout stream, a freshwater swamp, and a saltwater estuary, and was set to be acquired by a Federal grant through the Department of Housing and Urban development. In 1978, however, Mayor Koch’s 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. Ultimately, the Cyclone was saved from demolition. In 1991, the Cyclone roller coaster was listed on the New York State Register of Historic Places. In a letter requesting landmark status for the Cyclone, the president of the Gravesend Historical society wrote, “Unlike the Dodgers, the Cyclone will never leave Brooklyn.”

Park Information

Directions to The Cyclone

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