8. Freedomland USA
Freedomland Stage Coach. Courtesy of Thomas X. Casey
Co-op City rose proverbially out of the ashes of Freedomland USA, an ambitious but short-lived attempt to create a Disneyland style amusement park in the northeast Bronx. Opening in 1960, Freedomland was a history-themed attraction formed in the shape of the 48 contiguous United States with mini-scaled rivers and mountains. It featured exhibits such as the Chicago fire in which visitors helped firefighters extinguish the blaze, once every 20 minutes.
The fun lasted until 1964, when Freedomland went bankrupt and closed. Its failure has been variously attributed to high operating costs, inability to operate in winter months, lack of exciting rides such as roller coasters, and, finally, competition from the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing, Queens.
After Freedomland went belly-up, United Housing Foundation swooped in to buy the property and adjoining land to implement its plan for Co-op City, a housing development on a similarly grandiose scale.