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Summer Season Kicks Off As Coney And Staten Island Celebrate Impressive Recovery

Beach & Boardwalk Are Back; New York Aquarium Partially Reopens Saturday

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Superstorm Sandy

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Nearly seven months after Superstorm Sandy, Coney Island is back in business and ready for the summer season.

The beach and boardwalk reopened Friday and officials also unveiled the new 2.2-acre Steeplechase Plaza, featuring the restored B&B Carousell.

“Today marks the revival of the Coney Island amusement district that suffered during Hurricane Sandy,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “Coney Island isn’t just back – it’s better than ever.”

It is back just in time for the unofficial start of summer.

“In the wake of that storm we promised New Yorkers that no matter what it takes, every one of our city’s beaches would be open on Memorial Day,” Bloomberg told a crowd of reporters that included CBS 2’s Dave Carlin.

“Today’s grand opening, the arrival of Memorial Day weekend and the beginning of summer in Coney Island this year serves as more than just proof that this truly is America’s Playground,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

EXTRA: Coney Island Getaway Guide

“America’s Playground is affordable, accessible and the most exciting in America,” Markowitz proclaimed.

The B&B Carousell was built in 1906 and features 50 hand-carved wooden horses. It was nearly sold in pieces at an auction in 2005, but the city stepped in and purchased the carousel to restore it to its former glory after.

Children take a ride on the B&B Carousell at Coney Island (credit: Kristen Artz/Flickr)

Children take a ride on the B&B Carousell at Coney Island (credit: Kristen Artz/Flickr)

“Up until now the only ride I would go on is the Wonder Wheel and the cars that stay permanent, not the ones that move,” Markowitz said.

Coney Island will also welcome back the New York Aquarium this weekend.

Sandy’s surge flooded carefully calibrated tanks with oily, debris-filled water, knocked out backup power to all the exhibits and made it impossible for staff to check on some of them for days.

After seven months and $10 million, the institution have recovered enough from Sandy to partially reopen on Saturday.

“As our community continues to rebuild, the reopening of this New York institution marks a welcome and important development in Coney Island’s comeback,” City Council Member Domenic M. Recchia, Jr. said in a statement. “Families from all over the city will benefit from the return of our beloved aquarium, as will the local economy.”

Osborn is ready for Saturday's reopening of the New York Aquarium (credit: Al Jones/1010 WINS)

Osborn is ready for Saturday’s reopening of the New York Aquarium (credit: Al Jones/1010 WINS)

The partial reopening will include Glover’s Reef, which features sea life found in Belize; and exhibits in Conservation Hall that highlight the Coral Triangle of Fiji, the Great Lakes of East Africa, and the Flooded Forests of the Amazon.

It also will include the outdoor spaces of Sea Cliffs, with walruses, sea lions, harbor seals, sea otters and penguins.

“It’s about half of the aquarium’s footprint, but it’s most of the stuff that people love the most,” said aquarium director Jon Forrest Dohlin.

Admission costs have been reduced to $9.95.

“We still have a long road ahead of us, but opening our doors will help further the continuing recovery of the community. Everyone who visits us will support the rebuilding of the aquarium and the rest of Coney Island just by visiting and enjoying our exhibits,” Dohlin said in a statement.

The back half of the aquarium remains closed for repairs until 2016.

Staten Island Beaches Are Ready For Summer

CBS 2’s Vanessa Murdock was on Staten Island where beaches are ready to welcome crowds in spite of the beating they took from Sandy.

“We are coming back better, stronger, and also more accessible,” Parks Commissioner Veronica White said.

Crews crammed three years worth of work into seven months and proved the naysayers wrong.

“Didn’t look like anything was going to be ready, we’re right here. It’s beautiful,” said John Malizia.

Sand that was displaced by Sandy was cleaned up, sifted, and put back in place on the beaches where it belongs; but, there is still some work to be done.

“Sandy wiped this place out, it heaved the deck so we’re in here shoring up,” dock builders told CBS 2.

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