Old Coney Island entertainment set to run again even though new rides remain stranded

April 7, 2021

When the world-famous Coney Island rides reopen on Friday, crowds of tourists and New Yorkers are expected to ride for the first time since the pandemic shut down businesses along the historic Brooklyn Parkway last spring.

But the popular seaside playground is notably missing several attractions that were originally due to be completed two years ago – including a new wooden flume promenade, an arcade, a public plaza with a food court, and an “adventure park” with a ropes course.

And they’re all still at least a year away.

City Economic Development Corporation ad in 2018, the selection of Central Amusement International, owner of Coney Island’s Luna Park, to expand the entertainment district by 150,000 square feet on city-owned property. This would increase the neighborhood by 50%, to 450,000 square feet.

The adventure park was supposed to open in 2019, with the ride on the water planned a year later. But the pandemic shutdowns dashed any hope that the expansion would come to fruition in the 2020 season – a wasted year that should have included the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Deno’s Wonder Wheel.

The EDC does not expect new attractions to be ready until the 2022 season, according to a spokesperson.

“At this time, we are in active discussions and will assess all options to ensure the recovery and long-term success of the Entertainment District,” spokesperson Shavone Williams wrote in a statement.

CAI and its chairman, Alessandro Zamperla, did not respond to requests for comment.

On the future site of the planned water and adventure park – next to the famous Thunderbolt roller coaster – a wasteland remains prohibited.

Expired building permits from the Department of Buildings hang from a chained, tarp-covered, and partially edged fence surrounding the property.

Anticipation and precaution

Luna Park will be limited to 33% of its capacity when reopens on Friday, with health guidelines – as a mandatory face mask for guests 2 years and older, and six-foot spacing while waiting for queues – indeed. Rides in the park include the Cyclone, whose wooden frame is almost as old as the Wonder Wheel.

Tickets must be booked online in advance. The park will only open on weekends until Memorial Day, after which it will operate daily throughout the summer.

Deno’s Wonder Wheel amusement park also reopens on Friday, with tickets honored until two a.m. sold online in advance.

A child marvels at the Wonder Wheel and the rest of Coney Island as the Q train approaches Stillwell Avenue station /Hiram Alejandro Durán / THE CITY

As part of a belated 100th anniversary celebration, Deno’s will provide free rides to 100 frontline workers, Bklyner reported.

This summer should also bring the debut of Phoenix, a new roller coaster that will be 68 feet tall and hit speeds of up to 34 mph, according to the Alliance for Coney Island.

The main gates to Deno and Luna Park will be closed to prevent ticketless passersby from walking around to watch the rides.

The reopening should stimulate the local economy. This includes the affairs of Luna Park owner Zamperla, who would have lost millions following the closure.

“The last dollar – a penny, in fact – that we earned was in October 2019,” Zamperla said. Fox Company in September, as he pleaded with Governor Andrew Cuomo to let amusement parks reopen.

But six small business owners near Luna Park were already struggling economically before the pandemic as their owner Zamperla raised rent by 400%, The New York Times reported in January 2020.

There has been only one permanent shutdown in the region that was not planned before the pandemic, according to Alliance executive director Alexandra Silversmith. Still, she added, Coney’s businesses have struggled.

Only the nearby New York Aquarium was eligible for the federal grant for shutter site operators, made available through a stimulus bill signed by then-President Donald Trump in December.

“There are a lot of rent arrears issues, we’ve heard it from a lot of companies. One company told us they used credit cards, which is really not great because it is becoming then a personal responsibility, ”Silversmith told THE CITY.

“We have heard from other people that they have tapped into their personal savings, so there have been a whole range of different ways of surviving.”

Small stores outside of the Entertainment District tend not to have the same level of resources, such as accountants, to help relief programs operate, Silversmith noted.

Many mom and pop stores on Mermaid and Neptune avenues have turned down offers from the Alliance for Coney Island to help them apply for the federal paycheck protection program and other aid qualified government loans. .

Silversmith said many feel “burned out” by the loans made in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

“I think there is mistrust of the government,” she said. “But ‘loan forgiveness’ is just a weird concept and they feel it’s not.”

Art Fursenko, 25, who has lived in the Coney Island neighborhood for most of his life, said he looked forward to the reopening after seeing the devastating effects of the pandemic on the region.

“It worked at Six Flags, it worked at Disneyland,” he said. “I think if it’s done safely and they follow proper protocol, especially if it’s socially remote, it could be of great benefit to society.”

This story was originally posted on April 6, 2021 by THE CITY. register here so that the latest THE CITY stories are delivered to you every morning.

THE CITY is an independent, non-profit news organization dedicated to impactful reporting serving the people of New York City.

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