Coney Island’s Luna Park, unable to do business in pandemic, faces uncertain future

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The shuttered entrance to Luna Park in August 2020.
File photo/Todd Maisel

At the height of economic crisis of the last decade, the Zamperla family put everything they had into starting an amusement park in Brooklyn’s Coney Island, helping to revamp the city’s summer playground.

Ten years later, the family business known as Central Amusement International (CAI), which operates Luna Park, has not made a dime since October of 2019, missing an entire season of profits and are calling on the state and the city Economic Development Corporation to throw them a line as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on.

But although Luna Park’s survival hinges on direction from the Cuomo administration to reopen safely and legally, they have not received approval of any of their plans after amusement parks were removed from Phase 4 of the New York Forward Plan.

The problems mirror that of neighboring Deno’s Wonder Wheel amusement park, famous for its iconic ferris wheel, which also experienced a lost summer due to COVID-19.

Alessandro Zamperla told amNewYork Metro that with time is running out for the amusement park to see one last season, 2040 would be ideal for the lease extension which still has seven years left on it.

“The city probably cannot give us [financial] help, the state probably cannot give us help, so we’re really asking EDC to give us more time so that we can stabilize our business,” Zamperla said. “Given the circumstances, we believe the most reasonable thing the city can do, you know, is to allow us to plan for the future with some stability so that we can recover from the season that was completely lost in 2021.”

According to the EDC, as the pandemic has put considerable strain on their commercial tenants across the city and are trying to work with any that need help across of all 66 million square feet of space under their purview.

On top of that, the EDC has granted businesses renting space from them the opportunity to forego rent payments equivalent to more than the full base rent due this year as long as those such as Luna Park pass those savings on to the subtenants along the boardwalk.

EDC additionally said that they are interested in helping the recovery of amusement parks by advocating that state allow them to reopen.

The governor’s office responded to a request for comment from amNewYork Metro.

According to Zamperla, his family banked everything on opening the park using assets to secure up to $16 million in loans through the opportunity originally presented through the EDC’s 2009 Coney Island Revitalization plan; Luna Park was the result in 2010. They then expanded the park by 50% in 2018.

But the company says they have not heard from the EDC since their last discussions on May 16, when New York was seeing an all-time high in coronavirus deaths. Now, as the infection rate has gone from 20-25% to about 1%, nothing seems to have changed in regard to the allowing the park to redeem its finances.

“As stewards of the 2009 Coney Island Revitalization plan, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), has a unique and pivotal role in facilitating a viable path for economic sustainability and recovery for Coney Island’s Amusement District,” the letter from CAI to EDC said. “We began these investments when the Amusement District and Boardwalk businesses were suffering, tourism was dwindling, and crime in the area was a significant deterrent. According to NYCEDC, the sales in the Amusement District increased by 112 percent from 2010 to 2017 after the opening of Luna Park in Coney Island.”

Earlier in 2020, the Zamperla’s had made a further investment of $13 million in the Coney Island East Amusements expansion. But since then, the company has complied with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s New York on PAUSE orders that shut down amusement parks.

According to Zamperla, public health was the priority for the company, but seeing foot traffic return to the iconic boardwalk will be cannot not come soon enough.

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