The 80th anniversary of the iconic Parachute Jump was celebrated by the Alliance for Coney Island at its seventh annual gala on April 4.
Originally built for the 1939 New York World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, Queens, where it served as the Life Savers Candy Parachute Jump, the structure was moved to its current location in America’s Playground in 1941. Yet it still has a few years to go before it matches Deno’s Wonder Wheel which turns 99 this year.
The gala, which took place at Gargiulo’s, 2911 West 15th St., featured guest speaker James Patchett, president and CEO of the New York City Economic Development Corporation.
Jon Dohlin, chairperson of the Coney Island Alliance and director of the New York Aquarium, welcomed guests after Father Eugene Pappas of Three Hierarchs Church delivered the invocation.
Dohlin introduced Patchett, whom he called, “A major presence in Coney Island,” who “has led EDC in helping develop our neighborhood.
“EDC brought Luna Park to Coney Island as one of the first steps in revitalizing the amusement district and since then they’ve worked to expand restoration of landmarks such as the B&B Carousell and Childs Restaurant, now Kitchen 21, and the opening of the newest addition to the New York Aquarium, Ocean Wonders: Sharks!” added Dohlin.
Patchett thanked Dohlin and Alexandra Silversmith, executive director of the Alliance for Coney Island, for all their support, along with elected officials attending including City Councilmember Mark Treyger and Assemblymember Mathylde Frontus, as well as Deputy Chief Charles Scholl, executive officer of Patrol Borough Park South, and members of Community Board 13 which covers Coney Island, Brighton Beach, Gravesend and Sea Gate.
“It’s a real pleasure to be here tonight celebrating one of New York’s most dynamic neighborhoods,” said Patchett.
“I can’t wait to come back this summer and take my two kids to Sharks!, a Cyclone game and of course the new amusements,” added Patchett.
Silversmith thanked all the event sponsors and explained the historic significance of celebrating the Parachute Jump.
“The Parachute Jump represents the new heights we are looking at in Coney Island,” said Silversmith. “After Sandy, many said that Coney Island was done for, that there was nothing that could be rebuilt. But here we are working to continue our story.”
In addition, the gala honored three individuals who have served Coney Island and helped shape the neighborhood into the powerhouse it is today. This year’s honorees were Samuel Moore, executive director of the Coney Island YMCA; Ernest “Sandy” Chabel, co-owner of Sneaker Town USA and the late Gene Ritter, former executive director of New York State Marine Education Association.
Ritter, a Coney Island native, educator, environmental advocate and commercial diver, discovered and retrieved the Dreamland Bell which had sunk in the Dreamland Amusement Park fire in 1911.
More than 350 guests attended the gala, which serves as the Alliance’s main fundraiser, bringing in money annually to support free public programming, workforce development and quality-of-life initiatives for the bustling southern Brooklyn neighborhood year-round.
“When I took office in 2014, I was told by a lot of people that there was a lot of work to do because we had just experienced the worst storm in our history,” said Treyger.”
“I was told that it’s very hard to achieve progress. It almost reminded me of that childhood story, ‘The Little Engine that Could.’ We were told we couldn’t do it but I said, ‘Hey, we’re Coney, home to 50,000 people. We are the little peninsula that could,” Treyger added.