Brooklyn - Coney Island: Parachute Drop

The Parachute Jump is a no-longer-operational amusement ride, whose iconic open-frame steel structure remains a Coney Island landmark. Eighty meters (262 feet) tall and weighing 170 tons (150 tonnes), it has been called the "Eiffel Tower of Brooklyn". It was built for the 1939 New York World's Fair in Flushing Meadows Park, Queens, and moved to its current site, then part of the Steeplechase Park amusement park, in 1941. It is the only portion of Steeplechase Park still standing today. The ride ceased operations in the 1960s.

 

The ride was based on functional parachutes which were held open by metal rings throughout the ascent and decent. Twelve cantilevered steel arms sprout from the top of the tower, each of which supported a parachute attached to a lift rope and a set of surrounding guide cables. Riders were belted into a two-person canvas seat hanging below the closed chute, then hoisted to the top, where a release mechanism would drop them, the descent slowed only by the parachute. Shock absorbers at the bottom, consisting of pole-mounted springs, cushioned the landing. Each parachute required three cable operators, keeping labor expenses high.

 

The site barely escaped a condominium development by Fred Trump, but public opposition and the expense of demolition scuttled the project. The City of New York acquired the Steeplechase site in 1969, and control of the Jump passed to the city's parks department, which attempted to sell it in 1971. No buyers were found, and demolition was considered but eventually rejected, due both to the high price to the city that demolition would cost and to a nascent preservation movement.

 

Beginning in 1993, the City of New York painted and stabilized the structure, painting it in its original colors, but the structure still suffers from rust in the salt air. With Coney Island in a period of revival, including the minor league baseball stadium KeySpan Park next door, a $5 million restoration plan by the New York City Economic Development Corporation has been underway since 2002; as of 2003, the upper part of the structure was completely dismantled, and steel structural elements were being completely replaced as necessary.

 

In 2004-2005, the Parachute Jump was the focus of an architecture competition by the Coney Island Development Corporation and the Van Alen Institute which drew over 800 entries. The 7800 square foot (725 m²) Parachute Pavilion, at the base of the Jump, will be an all-season activity center including a souvenir shop, restaurant, bar, and exhibition space. In 2005, a lighting installation was completed. The winning design followed strict guidelines to harmonize with the landmark structure, including a maximum height of 30 feet (9.1 m)

 

See this picture of the Parachute Drop in its current setting as part of Keyspan Park.

 

The Parachute Drop was designated a landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission on May 23, 1989.

 

National Historic Register #80002645

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Taken in July 2001
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