Astroland at Coney Island is sadly being dismantled ride by ride this month. It’s kind of going the way of the Half Moon Hotel—once a majestic, Spanish Colonial–style resort right on the boardwalk.
Opened in 1927, the Half Moon was supposed to compete with then-luxe Atlantic City and attract upscale crowds to Coney rather than just hordes of working-class day-trippers.
Well, that didn’t exactly happen. In the 1930s, the hotel teetered on the brink of foreclosure; it eeked out a profit by hosting banquets and conventions.
And then Abe “Kid Twist” Reles moved in. Reles was a gangster with Murder, Inc. who turned informant after he was charged with homicide in 1940. While he testified at different trials, he lived under police protection at the Half Moon, guarded by six cops and watched at all times.
In the early hours of November 12, 1941, Reles was found dead, flat on his back on the roof of the hotel kitchen far below his sixth-floor window. Bed sheets tied together like a makeshift rope made it seem like he fell to his death while trying to escape.
Or was he pushed? In the 1960s, mob boss Lucky Luciano said that police were paid $50,000 to toss Reles out the window. No one knows for sure, and the Half Moon—knocked down in the 1990s to make way for a senior citizens’ home—took its secrets to the grave.