Coney Island Amusement Rides Open for the Summer

AP Photo/Julie Walker
AP Photo/Julie Walker

Verena Dobnik, The Associated Press, April 14, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) — The Coney Island amusement park opened Sunday for another season — with a 1920s wooden roller-coaster and a new, steel one ready to roll at breakneck speeds.

In Luna Park, Italian amusement tycoon Alberto Zamperla joined Eric Adams as the Brooklyn borough president christened the Cyclone roller-coaster with a local tradition: cracking a bottle of egg cream on the first car.

Zamperla stepped off his Cyclone ride, declaring in Italian: "This is entertainment that seems dangerous, but it isn't — it's an adrenaline rush. It's happiness, it's lightness."

RELATED: Revisiting New York's 1964 World's Fair, 50 Years Later

Isabel Peters described it her way when she emerged from the 87-year-old ride that got a $3 million makeover in recent years. She paid only $6 for the experience — a first-day discount from the usual $9 thrill.

"Once you get up to the top, going down, it's like a free fall," said the 25-year-old software engineer from Berlin, Germany. "It's scary, but I'd absolutely do it again."

Sunday was opening day for the 40 rides of Luna Park, where 750 local residents are employed. Twenty of the rides were manufactured in the Zamperla factory outside Vicenza, in northeast Italy.

Deno's Wonder Wheel also started up on Sunday, operated separately from the Zamperla rides.

The new Italian-made roller-coaster, the Thunderbolt, is scheduled to open Memorial Day weekend on the same spot as the 1920s Thunderbolt that appears in Woody Allen's movie "Annie Hall."

With its sharp drop and vertical loop and rolling at almost 60 mph, the Thunderbolt "is on the edge of the future — to attract people," said Zamperla.

But it's the classic merry-go-round — Luna Park's restored B&B Carousell with its 50 hand-carved horses — "that is forever," said the 62-year-old entrepreneur whose family amusement industry goes back four generations. "That's where the memories are."

On the Brooklyn waterfront, memories include screams of white-knuckled joy for generations of Americans who gave the working-class beachfront the name The People's Playground.

In 2009, the New York City Council voted in favor of then Mayor Michael Bloomberg's 47-acre rezoning plan to turn the beloved but decaying waterfront into a modern, year-round destination with high-rise hotels, restaurants, retail stores and movie theaters.

Zamperla entered the scene in 2010 with its world class, high-tech rides, which also dot various Disney amusement parks.

A Zamperla-linked company, Central Amusements International, has signed a lease with New York City to manage attractions on municipal land including Luna Park, the Scream Zone and the historic Cyclone.