Entertainment

Amusements At Coney Island Open For Season, But Struggle Persists In Neighborhood

Luna Park Ribbon-Cutting March 24, 2013 (credit: Monica Miller/WCBS 880)

Luna Park Ribbon-Cutting March 24, 2013 (credit: Monica Miller/WCBS 880)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A symbolic opening Sunday marked the return of the amusement rides on Coney Island after the damage they suffered from Superstorm Sandy.

But as CBS 2’s Steve Langford reported, the celebration was not welcome news to some area residents.

Politicians and other leaders were proud to announce that following the devastation from Sandy, Luna Park at Coney Island is opening on schedule to kick off the 2013 season.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz presided over the official opening with the 29th annual “Blessing of the Rides” at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. The 86-year-old Cyclone roller coaster also received its traditional “Egg Cream Christening,” bringing together two of Brooklyn’s notable contributions.

Markowitz told the crowd he’s more of a spectator when it comes to the Cyclone.

“I’m not going, no way!” he said following the egg cream christening.

Luna Park was inundated with five feet of water during Sandy. The rides all had to be replaced and the entire amusement area had to be power-washed to clean up from the storm.

Sen. Schumer, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz give Cyclone its "egg cream christening." March 24, 2013 (credit: Monica Miller/WCBS 880)

Sen. Schumer, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz give Cyclone its “egg cream christening.” March 24, 2013 (credit: Monica Miller/WCBS 880)

Coney Island native Eric Knapp has an annual tradition of making sure he’s first in line to ride the Cyclone each year. He camps out overnight before the season kicks off.

“It’s got to be one of the coldest nights I’ve ever spent out here, eight years,” Knapp told WCBS 880’s Monica Miller. “To be standing on Surf Avenue and realizing there was seven feet of water here, ha!”

The first 100 people in line at the Cyclone got a free ride on the iconic roller coaster, while the Wonder Wheel was free to riders all day.

But across the street, an angry group of protesters wanted nothing to with the festivities. The demonstration highlighted the tale of two Coney Islands.

“We are enthused and happy that the rides are opening and that the amusement has made a comeback,” said Ronald Steward of the People’s Coalition for Coney Island. “But we wanted to let New York City know that there’s a part of Coney Island that’s still shut down.”

The angry residents said for the most part, the powerful who came to celebrate the comeback of the amusement portion of Coney Island had not even bothered to walk over and talk to them.

“Only one has,” a protester said. “The rest of them haven’t.”

Markowitz said he understood their plight.

“I personally welcome their participation here, because it reminds all of us that are in public life that all is not well,” he said.

Everyone agreed that public officials have worked tirelessly to rebuild.

“Whether you’re you own the Cyclone or you were just living in public housing and just lost furniture, you’ll get reimbursed,” Schumer said.

But nearly five months after Superstorm Sandy, patience is waiting. It was no day at the beach just a couple of blocks from the water, where businesses, day cares and community centers remained still closed.

“Is Coney Island Back? No, no it’s not,” said Charlene Davis. “Coney Island is not back.”

Davis is disabled, but not inarticulate.

“When people think of Coney Island, they think about the rides the amusement park; the boardwalk,” Davis said. “Coney Island is more than that. Coney Island is the whole community.”

Community activists said about one in four local businesses in Coney Island remains closed.

What’s your favorite part of Coney Island? Sound off in the comments section below…