Reopening of amusement parks brings hope to Coney Island community

traffic safety
Photo by Todd Maisel

Outdoor amusement parks across the state can reopen at 33 percent capacity on April 9, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday, meaning the People’s Playground can once again welcome thrill-seekers following a year of financial hardship.

Visitors must buy tickets in advance and wear face coverings, and the parks must conduct temperature checks and clean the rides frequently, Cuomo said. 

Sleep-away camps and indoor entertainment can also open under the new rules, Cuomo announced. Indoor entertainment will be limited to 25 percent of their maximum capacity and will open March 26, and sleep-away camps will open in June for the duration of the summer with testing protocols. 

Cuomo has not yet specified what types of businesses qualify as indoor entertainment, but said the Department of Health will release a list of qualifying businesses soon.

The reopening will come nearly two weeks after the Coney Island amusement parks’ usual reopening date on Palm Sunday, which falls this year on March 28. Regardless of the change of date, one amusement park owner said he was thrilled to be able to reopen.

“We can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Dennis Vourderis, whose family owns Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park. “And what a long, dark tunnel it’s been.”

Vourderis and Alessando Zamerla, who owns the neighboring Luna Park, have urged the state since last summer to issue reopening guidelines, arguing that the open-air facilities are prepared to open safely.

“The way [the Wonder Wheel] was designed and built 102 years ago during the last pandemic, it was designed to be socially distant,” said Vourderis in September. “The cars are 50 feet apart, the people that ride in each one of the vehicles are with their own group, their own family.”

This summer, both parks will unveil new rides. Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, which tends to cater to younger thrill-seekers, will open a custom-made, 68-foot-tall rollercoaster called the Phoenix sometime this summer, Vourderis said. Next door, Luna Park will unveil a new kid-friendly section with six rides. 

The reopening will also mean that the Wonder Wheel will be able to celebrate its 100-year anniversary, which would have been in 2020, but was postponed because of the parks’ season-long closure. But because of the limited capacity, Vourderis said he isn’t yet sure what the celebration will look like.

“We’re not sure how much on an event we can do,” he said. “At this point, we’re just happy we can open.”

This is a developing story that first appeared on our sister publication brooklynpaper.com. Check back for more updates. 

More from around NYC