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Coney Island Alliance Honors Those Who Helped Sustain Area Through Its Darkest Days

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TWC News: Coney Island Alliance Honors Those Who Helped Sustain Area Through Its Darkest Days
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As a new season in Coney Island approaches, the community paid tribute Friday to those who helped stabilize the area before and after Hurricane Sandy. NY1's Jeanine Ramirez filed the following report.

Greek immigrants Deno and Lula Vourderis posed in front of the Wonder Wheel back in the 1940s, decades before they owned it.

"He says to her, 'One day, you watch. That's going to be mine, and it's going to be my gift to you to show how much I love you,'" said Dennis Vourderis of Wonder Wheel Park.

In 1983, Deno bought the landmark ride and the amusement park, which the Vourderis family has been operating ever since.

Lula Vourderis was recognized for her contributions to Coney Island Thursday night. Her grandchildren accepted the award on her behalf at the second annual gala of the Coney Island Alliance. The Alliance honored those who helped sustain Coney Island through its darkest days, including after Hurricane Sandy.

"We're also honoring the American Red Cross, which really heeded criticism early on in the storm and has stuck around even though we are now 16 months after the disaster, and it played a critical role," said Nate Bliss of the New York City Economic Development Corporation.

The Alliance was formed in the months after Hurricane Sandy, bringing businesses and community groups together to help re-build. Its gala is a fundraiser to support programming and services to the area.

While much of the amusement district rebounded, the work is not over.

"Within the residential community, there's bulkheads and seawalls that still need to be repaired. There's temporary boilers at NYCHA developments that still need to be repaired. And within the amusement area, the aquarium is still about one-third of its original capacity," Bliss said.

The Alliance said that progress is being made not only in recovery efforts, but also in expansion plans. A vacant lot will soon be the site of the first roller coaster to be built in Coney Island since 1927. Called the Thunderbolt, it's a modern twist on an old favorite. The old Thunderbolt was demolished in 2000. The new one is being erected on the same grounds.

Groundbreaking for the Thunderbolt is scheduled for Monday afternoon.

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