Coney Island, baby: Seaside attractions reopen after more than a year

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The fun is officially back in Coney Island!

Amusement parks and iconic attractions like the Wonder Wheel and the bone-shaking Cyclone roller-coaster in the southern Brooklyn seaside fun land reopened to great fanfare Friday – after the coronavirus pandemic shuttered the People’s Playground for a total of 529 days.

“It’s a very emotional day,” Alessandro Zamperla, the CEO of Central Amusement International Inc., which manages the area’s famed Luna Park, said during a grand re-opening ceremony.

“Opening amusement parks in this moment is a message of positivity, of optimism, the light at the end of the tunnel,” Zamperla said, calling it “amazing” and “overwhelming.”

Dennis Vourderis, the co-owner of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, added, “It’s a great honor for us to bring some joy into the lives of many New Yorkers, Brooklynites, and people from all over the world to come, have fun and smile again.”

The famed Wonder Wheel turned 100 last year, but “this is the 100th year that it will spin at Coney Island, Vourderis said.

“We’re here to celebrate many things today,” he said. “I know it’s a tough time to say celebrate, because there are still so many people losing loved ones in the world. We are moving forward to a better time. There are bright days ahead of us.”

DJ Vourderis, the grandson of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park founder Denos Vourderis, added, that Coney Island is the “greatest example of resilience even in the toughest times.”

“It’s a place where people have always come to find comfort,” he said.

There’s a new rollercoaster being built at the theme park named after the “mythical” phoenix, DJ Vourderis said, explaining, “The name ‘Phoenix’ is meant to represent rebirth into a more accepting and loving world.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio and US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer were also on hand for the reopening ceremony.

“This is one of the best days of the year. Coney Island comes back, the rides come back, and now New York City will come back,” Hizzoner said before taking a spin on the legendary Cyclone roller coaster at Luna Park.

After riding the wooden coaster, a beaming de Blasio called it a “beautiful experience.”

Under state rules, New York’s outdoor amusement parks were permitted to reopen Friday from their coronavirus-induced closures at 33 percent capacity and with COVID-19 safety protocols in place like mask-wearing and social distancing.

Thrill seekers lined up early Friday after making online reservations to get into Coney Island’s amusement parks.

“It’s very exciting,” said a tearful Jackie Jones, 71, who brought her two grandkids, ages 7 and 9, to Coney Island from Manhattan.

“It’s amazing after being isolated for an entire year. It signifies rebirth, renewal and coming through the worst of it,” the native New Yorker said.

Zackary Plant, 31, made a three hour drive from Troy, NY with his wife and their three kids, ages 6, 4, and 2 for Coney Island’s opening day.

“It’s the mark of freedom – not having to be closed in anymore,” Plant said. “This is one of the last old parks left. It’s original New York City homegrown entertainment — it’s legendary.”

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