By Jennifer Peltz & Jon Gerberg
Coney Island's famous Cyclone roller coaster and Wonder Wheel may be shuttered July Fourth, one of the busiest days for its historic amusement park, as engineers inspect a 275-foot-tall observation tower that swayed in the wind.
After concerns about the tower abruptly shut down the park Tuesday evening, the roller coaster, Ferris wheel and some other attractions were to stay closed Wednesday, and it was too soon to say whether they could reopen Thursday, city Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri said.
"We're going to do everything we can to keep this park open," he said, but authorities said they needed to keep some of it closed until they could be sure there was no danger.
As for how long that would be, Frank McCartone, a deputy commissioner of the city's Office of Emergency Management, could say only: "until it's mitigated."
Hours earlier, Mayor Michael Bloomberg had said that initial assessments showed the unused Astrotower was stable. It wasn't immediately clear what new information authorities then gleaned that spurred them to keep parts of the Luna Park amusement zone closed.
Some attractions, including the Coney Island Raceway and the B&B Carousell, reopened around noon. But on Wednesday afternoon, police began stretching tape around the block near the Astrotower, which shifted from time to time in the wind, and LiMandri said parts of the area's famous boardwalk were being closed.
The fire department received a call Tuesday afternoon that the tower was swaying, and the park was evacuated and closed hours early as a precaution. The nearly 50-year-old tower, which has been closed since 2010, continued to shift in the breeze even Wednesday.
The structure was built to give somewhat in the wind to withstand storms, such as Superstorm Sandy last year, and residents and merchants are accustomed to seeing the structure sway.
"Every time the wind blows, I see it sway," said Billy Burke, manager of Paul's Daughter, a hot dog shop on boardwalk.
But construction has been underway to take down an observation car that used to circle the top of the tower, LiMandri said. With less weight at the top, the needlelike structure apparently was swayed more than usual.
Some residents who had watched it Tuesday said they noticed the movement was more pronounced than usual.
"It's the first time I saw it swinging like that, back and forth. I was like, 'Oh, my God,'" said Tracy Mittleman, 34, who has lived across the street her entire life.
Nicole Purmal, the marketing manager at Luna Park, said Wednesday morning that the structure "definitely has a measure of movement about her," but she suggested seeing it as part of the park's charm.
"We hope it gives people a reason to come down to Coney Island to see that she swings and she sways," Purmal said.
The Astrotower was installed in 1964. It once offered visitors 360-degree views of the Atlantic Ocean and Brooklyn. It sits across the street from the Cyclone roller coaster.
The Fourth of July hot dog-eating contest nearby at Nathan's will not be affected. Nathan's was open Wednesday.
"The rest of Coney is open and ready for action," Bloomberg said Wednesday morning. "And we expect thousands of people to head out to Coney Island for the biggest dog show in the world."