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2006-07-13 / Other News

Parachute Jump Again Lights Way To Coney Is.

Spectators stare at Parachute Jump after switch was thrown Friday night by (inset, from left) City Council member Domenic Recchia, interim EDCpresident Joshua Sirefman, Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Julius Spiegel and BPMarty Markowitz. By Neil S. Friedman

Dormant, dark and decaying since 1965, the 277-foot Parachute Jump in Coney Island twinkled back to life last Friday night during a ceremony hosted by Borough President Marty Markowitz and master of ceremonies Dick Zigun.

A crowd estimated at several hundred filled the boardwalk at West 19th Street and was awed when the borough president flipped the switch to turn on the lights for the parasol-shaped landmark, called the "Eiffel Tower of Brooklyn" by Markowitz, into a beacon of shimmering red and purple lights - designed by Leni Schwendinger to evoke the rise and fall of parachutes - that illuminated the nearby beach and surrounding area.

After the lights went on, Markowitz said, "It will be a beacon of light for this and future generations, harking and heralding Coney Island as a place where dreams come true."

According to reports, spectators' comments included "amazing," "impressive," "nice, but subtle" and "breathtaking," although some expected it to be "a lot brighter."

The de-lightful ceremony was followed by the weekly Friday summer night fireworks, sponsored by Astroland and Deno's Wonder Wheel Park.

As part of its $5 million renovation the former ride will have six lighting schemes that represent the seasons, holidays and lunar cycles (a whitish light will shine the day before and after each full moon). The illumination is scheduled to last from dusk to midnight in the summertime and dusk to 11 p.m. the rest of the year. All six were displayed during the event, reportedly the only time that will ever occur.

Schwendinger, who had 17 lamps and 150 lighting fixtures installed, said, "The colors of the lights are as diverse and animated as the people of Brooklyn."

The Parachute Jump was moved from Flushing Meadow Park, for which it was designed and stood for the 1939 World's Fair, in Queens to Coney Island in 1940. After the demise of the adjacent Steeplechase Amusement Park in the mid-60s, it was abandoned and lay vacant and idle, and too costly to repair and maintain. As it's skeletal frame was left to rust, it escaped demolition several times until it was declared a city landmark in 1977.

When Markowitz took office several years ago, he had a notion of bringing the iconic symbol back to life as a thrill ride, but when that proved unfeasible, he decided on permanently lighting it as an alternative.

Thrill seekers can no longer experience the sudden drop after being lifted to the top, since it remains closed as a unique, amusement ride and its long-removed parachutes are only memories. But, the Parachute Jump will once more be a beacon to the boardwalk and for Coney Island every night of the year.

Laura Geiser

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