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Despite Sandy’s Wrath, Coney Island’s Luna Park To Reopen On Schedule Sunday

However, Storm-Impacted Residents Say There's No Amusement To Be Had
Luna Park on Coney Island - March 22, 2013 (credit: Peter Haskell / WCBS 880)

Luna Park on Coney Island – March 22, 2013 (credit: Peter Haskell / WCBS 880)

Superstorm Sandy

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

The cliche will ring especially true this weekend in Brooklyn. Despite the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy, Luna Park at Coney Island will open on a schedule Sunday to kick off the 2013 season.

WEB EXTRA: CBSNewYork’s Guide To Coney Island

The major fix-up with the sweeping and the power washing at Luna Park was almost completed on Friday. During the storm the park was swamped by 5 feet of water.

“All our rides are run by electric motors. There is a lot of contact, the switches, the wiring. It was a mess,” CEO Alberto Zamperla said.

He said they all had to be replaced, but it was important to open on schedule.

“We are committed to have Coney Island back,” he said.

“Coney Island is back,” said Rican Vargas, the “commander in chief” of the group Coney Island Dancers.

Vargas said it’s a miracle the seaside attraction survived the late October storm.

“I think God was standing on that boardwalk,” Vargas told 1010 WINS. “The water went under the boardwalk into the neighborhoods and that’s what kind of saved most of the rides and the business owners on that boardwalk.”

To celebrate its return, the park is offering free rides on the Cyclone Roller Coaster for the first 100 visitors on Opening Day.

"Keep Calm And Visit Coney Island" ad (credit: John Montone/1010 WINS)

“Keep Calm And Visit Coney Island” ad (credit: John Montone/1010 WINS)

Coney Island brass and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz will be on hand for the traditional egg-cream christening of the world-famous Cyclone roller coaster on Sunday.

MORE: Storm-Damaged New York Aquarium To Reopen Partially This Spring

Rides of Deno’s Wonder Wheel will be free for everyone.

Celebrations will kick off at the park’s boardwalk at 11 a.m. for the 29th Annual Blessing Of the Rides.

Some Local Residents, Business Owners Not Feeling Festive

Many who live in the area say the big celebration comes as a slap in the face.

Just blocks from the historic renovated boardwalk, there is a much different scene, CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell reported Friday.

Storefronts are shuttered, there are piles of debris and countless business owners like Edwin Cosme say they are still struggling to rebuild.

“There’s a more immediate need and that is the people, the human beings here,” Cosme said.

Cosme said he lost about $90,000 worth of inventory at his electronic store during Sandy.

“We had over 4-and-half feet of water,” Cosme said.

He’s now using a $25,000 loan to reopen as a cafe, but more than a quarter of the other shops along Mermaid Avenue remain closed, Burrell reported.

“These people are getting ready to celebrate and the community is dying out there,” barber shop owner Miguel Soto said.

“It’s very stressful, depressing to see many people, many of the businesses still shuttered,” Cosme said.

As the celebration touting Coney Island’s recovery gets underway Sunday, community leaders said they will be protesting, hoping to draw attention to the work still needed.

“The amusement area is a great thing, but the bottom line is that we are still suffering,” community activist Todd Dobrin said.

Dobrin said he is pleading for to city leaders for help.

“The local library is closed, local community center, senior centers are all closed. How do you celebrate when most of the community still hasn’t recovered? And that’s what we really want to get the message out, that we haven’t. It’s just not so,” Dobrin said.

For this hard hit community, the long path to recovery continues.

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