By Emily Drooby
It has been a roller-coaster of a year for Coney Island. The pandemic forced amusement parks to stay closed. After 13 months, they’re back.
“The opening of Coney Island is a metaphor for NYC,” said New York Sen. Chuck Schumer to a group gathered on the boardwalk “We are getting back in business.”
Sen. Schumer was on-hand along with Mayor Bill de Blasio and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. They were all there to re-open Luna Park and Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park.
“And the comeback begins here,” said Lt. Gov. Hochul, “it begins here today.”
It’s a comeback that will affect the entire neighborhood. Last year, the neighborhood lost $100 million in revenue due to the closure of the two parks, aquarium, amphitheater and Brooklyn Cyclones field.
Alexandra Silversmith with the Alliance for Coney Island says when these cornerstone places close, it affects the whole area.
“They are all really important to each other and that’s sort of how Coney Island survives and thrives,” Alexandra said, “if they’re all open and operating.”
The pandemic has been tough for local businesses and for the parks. The partly-Catholic family who owns Deno’s dipped into their savings to keep the park afloat.
“It was a devastatingly hard time,” said the park’s Marketing Director Kenneth Hochman. “The family, however, was committed to making sure the park would be here for post pandemic. And that’s why you can see the roller-coaster Phoenix, rising.”
The new ride is rising – just like Coney Island. It’s something the parks have done before.
Dennis Vourderis, who co-owns Deno’s, explained the neighborhood’s economy.
“The economy of Coney Island has shown to be very resilient and bounce back very quickly,” Dennis said. “Take Hurricane Sandy for instance. Coney Island rebuilt, reopened and entertained millions of people once again.”
After the 36th Annual “Blessing of the Rides,” the park was officially open for business for their 100th season, since last year was canceled.
Front-line workers, like Carmen, rode for free. She has been coming to the park since she was a kid. However, this visit was special because it made her hopeful for the future.
“It’s refreshing,” Carmen said. “It’s rewarding, it’s encouraging and I think that’s one of the things we need as people right now.”
That leaves a spark of hope, for many, that not only is summer coming back, but New York City is too.