An icy plunge on New Year’s morning with Coney Island Polar Bears

traffic safety
Hundreds participated in the annual Polar Bear Plunge in Coney Island, Brooklyn on New Year’s Day 2020. But the 2021 plunge was cancelled on Nov. 30 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thousands of people throughout NYC made the crazy decision to take an icy plunge into the frigid Atlantic Ocean from Coney Island Beach for the annual 116th New Year’s Day Polar Bear plunge.

Temperatures were a balmy 37 degrees by the 1 p.m. start, a true tropical treat compared to the record low temperature of 7 degrees two years earlier.

“It felt wonderful – it’s the best way to start the new year,” said Cindy Fandino of Kew Gardens, Queens. “It’s a nice adventure, all the people here are happy, we’re ready for the new year – it’s a nice cleanse.”

“I’m enjoying my beautiful family and this is our tradition – it’s what we do for the past four years,” added Fandino’s friend, Jennifer Quinones.

Cindy Fandino of Kew Gardens, Queens is all smiles despite the cold temperatures. (Photo by Todd Maisel)
The Polar Bears had thousands of people join them for the New Years day swim in Coney Island this afternoon.(Photo by Todd Maisel)
The Polar Bears had a thousand people join them for the New Years day plunge in Coney Island.(Photo by Todd Maisel)

Mariah Lopez of Astoria played a bass drum with a drum band playing for the swimmers before they ran into the water.

“We are going to make it warm – and yes, I’m absolutely going to stay dry,” Lopez said. “I’m supporting all of those brave souls going in, and I will play for them and try to keep them warm with that.”

Mariah Lopez in glasses, plays a big bass drum for the swimmers.(Photo by Todd Maisel)

Michael Ardolino, 9, of Gerritsen Beach, said the water was “very cold, but I did it anyway – and I got 20 bucks,” from his mom’s boyfriend Izzy, who bet him he wouldn’t do it.

“It was cold, but not bad – I was in about 15 seconds,” Ardolino said.

Michael Ardolino of Gerritsen Beach with his mom’s boyfriend Izzy, warm up after a swim. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

Mike Stevens, 28, of Fort Greene, Brooklyn he considered going into ice water “a good Irishman’s death.” He said he was going to make a new drink, “toes in a shot glass – but I’m not drinking it straight.”

So why is he doing this, he chuckled, “because I’m stupid and I’m fat – hell yea, it’s the new year, let’s make some magic.”

A big group of visiting Ecuadorians didn’t hesitate to jump into the waves. One of them scream, “mucho frio,” as his reaction to the frigid water.

“This was my second time, did it last year, it was warn, this was a step up, i was in there two seconds, but best way to start the year,  Allison LaRue, of the upper east side.

The Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge is the oldest winter swim in the country and raises money for different causes.

Organizers say this year’s swim raised more than $55,000 for organizations in the Coney Island community which is still recovering after Superstorm Sandy and has many low income families living in the western portion of Coney Island.

These swimmers were a bit of theater and art. (Photo by Todd Maisel)
Gregroy Ledilico of Midwood, Brooklyn, couldn’t get on the subway without a recharged Metrocard, but he had no problem going swimming.(Photo by Todd Maisel)
This swimmer gets her first feel of the water – ahhhhhh!. (Photo by Todd Maisel)
The Polar Bears had thousands join them for the New Years day swim in Coney Island.(Photo by Todd Maisel)