Monday, May 23, 2016

Quester I (Calvert Vaux Park) and the Coney Island Parachute Jump

There isn't much to see in Calvert Vaux Park in Gravesend, Brooklyn, but if you happen to be in the area, do check out its shoreline. The park's ground was created out of sand, and rock, trenched from the construction of the Verazanno-Narrows Bridge, and while it holds a few baseball diamonds, and a soccer field, the real reason those who visit this blog would want to stop by would be to check out the remains of Quester I, an abandoned submarine.

In 1966, a Brooklyn Navy Yard ship worker named Jerry Bianco had the idea to build a small submarine to raise the wreck of the SS Andrea Doria, which shipwrecked off the coast of Nantucket Island on July 17, 1956.
After finding a handful of investors, he, and his two sons, began construction the following year, using mostly salvaged metal.

By 1970, he had finished his dream, and created a 40 ft (12 m), 83 ton (75 metric ton) submarine, painted with yellow zinc chromate. It passed Coast Guard and Navy inspections, and was ready to launch on October 19, 1970.
Sadly, when lowering it into Coney Island Creek, the crane operator did not listen to Bianco's instructions, and the sub tipped sideways making it unusable.

Then docked, Jerry worked on the submersible for another year or so, but investors - already weary from its poor launch - backed out, and, without funding, the Quester I just sat there for years.
A storm in 1981 loosened it from its posts, and it became lodged in the muddy banks of the creek, where it has sat since.
If you're into dystopian landscapes, or have a case of cacophilia, keep walking along the shore of the park, and you will see sights that will certainly delight you.

If you're on the Coney Island side of the creek, you can still see the Quester I submarine from Kaiser Park, though nowhere near as close as if you were on the Gravesend side.

Still, being on this side of Coney Island Creek does have its advantages, such as seeing the old Parachute Jump up close.

Originally constructed for the 1939 New York World's Fair in Flushing Meadows, Queens, the now-defunct ride was moved to Coney Island in 1941, as part Steeplechase Amusement Park. It is the only ride, and part, of that park still around today.
Built by the Life Savers candy company for $15,000, two passengers were strapped into one of twelve seats under a closed parachute, then lifted by a cable to the top. There, a latch system would open, dropping them, with their descent slowed by the chute. Each two-person seat took three people to manage, making the ride rather expensive to operate, though it cost adults only 40¢, and children 25¢.

Steeplechase Park bought the tower for $150,000, and the complete ride was disassembled, and moved to its current location.

While the park closed in 1964, the Parachute Jump was entered in the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, and New York City recognized it as a landmark in 1989.

In 2004, Leni Schwendinger Light Projects was commissioned to create LED lighting for the Parachute Jump. Using 8,000 LED lights, the project debuted in July of 2006, with six computer-programmed animated lighting scenarios.
There were other parks in the area, such as Astroland (1962 - 2008), but, like Steeplechase Park, many of its rides were taken down a little after closing, though some stayed for much longer.

In 2013, the current funfair, Luna Park, was evacuated because one of the last remaining rides from Astroland, the Astrotower (aka Tower to the Stars), began swaying. Within days, the gyro-tower was gone, and Coney Island's scenery changed once again.