Sunday, March 24, 2013

Coney Island's Luna Park Opens!

Opening day at Coney Island's Luna Park comes upon us, crisp and sunny.  A crowd of hundreds flock to the boardwalk, as the National Anthem is sung and speeches are made, honoring the work of staff, city workers, volunteers and politicians for bringing Luna Park back from the ruins after Hurricane Sandy.  Sandy flooded the park; in fact, the boardwalk that I'm standing on right now was under six feet of water just 146 days ago.

The yellow ribbon is cut and families, friends and couples merge on to the rides.  The longest lines are for The Cyclone and the Wonder Wheel.

The Coney Island Cyclone, locally known as the Cyclone is a historic wooden roller coaster.  Not just any roller coaster, the Cyclone was declared a New York City landmark in 1988 and in 1991, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Wonder Wheel at Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park on Coney Island was built in 1920 and is a 150 foot tall wheel with both conventional cars (fixed directly to the rim of the wheel) and eccentric cars (not fixed, slide on rails between the hub and the rim).  

As the park overflows with the steady hum, buzz and rattle of rides and the laughter and screams of riders, a handful of individuals walk the boardwalk, carrying signs with the message, "Coney Island is not back yet".

There's much work yet to be done here.  Many of the rides can not be salvaged and some will take a lot more time to repair before they're once again operable.  Even more, houses and businesses alike throughout Coney Island, off the soon-to-be-bustling-with-tourists area of Surf Avenue, remain in varying state of disarray.  Basements are rotting, mold is claiming windows and walls, generators continue to hum as electricity is not yet restored, and water comes in the form of store-bought jugs.

While there is much to be celebrated on the resurgence of Luna Park less than six months after the hurricane, grief and loss, frustration and anger still hang heavy in the air in many neighborhoods.

But for now, for today, for this moment and the next, the sun shines brilliantly, warming our faces and our bodies, and the smell of hot dogs mixes with the sounds of children laughing.  And we sit and we walk and we ride and we play, and we soak up every last bit of innocence and wonder as the magic of Coney Island's Luna Park claims us all.

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