NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The area around the iconic Astrotower on Coney Island was to remain closed until further notice, after the tower appeared to be swaying in the wind more than usual Tuesday.
As CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, most of Luna Park was evacuated as a precaution during the 5 p.m. hour. The evacuated areas were to be closed until crews determine the tower is safe.
By 11 p.m., the closure of Surf Avenue and the surrounding areas had been lifted, but the Cyclone roller coaster and the portion of Luna Park adjacent to it – both of which are near the Astrotower – remained shut down.
The Luna Park Scream Zone, the Coney Island Raceway and the B&B Carousell will operate as usual on Wednesday, opening at noon, officials said. An announcement was expected early Tuesday afternoon as to when the Cyclone and the portion of Luna Park will reopen, the park said.
“Regardless of tomorrow’s announcement, we will continue to monitor the Astrotower and are committed to our work to ensure the long-term stability of the Astrotower and the safety of Coney Island,” the park’s Facebook statement said.
Inspectors were set to go inside the tower for a new examination on Wednesday morning. The inspection was to be completed by noon or 1 p.m., at which point a decision was expected on when the park would be fully reopened.
The earlier evacuation did not affect the entirety of Luna Park, 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon reported. The area around the tower was shut down, but some rides remained operational and some sections of the park remained open.
The Coney Island amusement area is composed of Luna Park, the adjacent Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, and the Cyclone – which operates separately from either.
The Astrotower, which is no longer in use as a ride, stands about 270 feet high right in the middle of the amusement section of Coney Island – near the Wonder Wheel and the Cyclone.
The Department of Buildings said Tuesday night that there was no major cause for concern – for now.
“As of now, the tower is stable,” said Buildings Department Deputy Commissioner Tim Hogan.
But while the department said the tower was stable, a red laser point directed at the top of the tower showed city and park inspectors the tower was moving more than normal Tuesday afternoon and needs further evaluation.
“There was already work going on on the tower that was permitted from last year and done over the winter, so there was work being done on the tower. And we’re just trying to make a determination now as to whether the stability of the tower will remain,” Hogan said.
One park goer grew concerned after seeing the tower sway in the wind and called 311. Police and firefighters evacuated the park as a precaution while the Department of Buildings and Office of Emergency Management evaluated the potential danger.
“We saw people just kind of herding all around the tower, and we were going to buy tickets so the kids can go on rides,” said tourist Sharon Burrowes. “But they said they were just shutting it down. They sent the employees home and that we weren’t able to ride any of the rides over here.”
But some tourists said there was cause for concern.
“I saw a little sway,” added Michael Burrowes. “It kind of like concerned me because it could’ve fell.”
Despite the frantic response, park officials said the swaying was nothing to be alarmed about.
“We, in combination to all of the service folks that arrived, said that we don’t want there to be any confusion in what’s going on. We don’t want anyone’s health and well-being. So we worked with them shutting down different areas of the park,” said Luna Park spokeswoman Nicole Purmal.
The tower is supposed to sway, much like a skyscraper, Purmal said.
“She dances; she’s got some movement in the wind, and that’s something we’re used to here at Luna Park,” Purmal said. “But when people visit and they’re unaware that there is a degree of sway to it, it can be surprising.”
In the past, such calls have brought inspectors, but never a partial shutdown. Local business owners such as Carlos Quinones told Rincon the shutdown this time was probably prompted by the fact that the tower looks more weathered and rusty – and maybe it is.
“Today, it moved a little bit more. But it always moved,” said Quinones, who works behind the tower and has seen it sway many times. “I’m used to seeing that.”
But others insisted a checkup on the integrity of the tower was necessary.
“On Saturday when I was here, it was rocking a lot,” said Sean Lennon. “And that’s when we told the Fire Department that it probably needs to be checked out.”
The Astrotower is a gyro tower, in which a rotating platform rises up in the air for overhead views of the amusement area below. It was constructed in 1964 for the Astroland amusement park, which operated at Coney Island from 1962 to 2008, and has been out of use since the park closed. Luna Park supplanted Astroland in 2010.
But locals said they are used to seeing the tower move, and are confident it will stand the test of time.
“Hurricane Sandy didn’t do nothing to it, so imagine all that water went in there; damaged the whole place,” said neighbor Jose Morales. “If that didn’t do nothing, nothing will do it.”
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