After 18 months, the Coney Island cyclone screeched to life once again Friday.
Some of the first to ride the iconic wooden roller coaster are brave for many reasons, but most of all because they’re front-line health care workers.
“After such a hard year, it’s amazing to come out here the first day that it opens up,” said Alina Lifshits, an RN at Coney Island hospital.
Another landmark, Deno’s Wonder Wheel, also welcomed riders back, as amusement parks are officially allowed to reopen statewide with attendance limited to one-third of capacity.
Luna Park and Deno’s Wonder Wheel amusement park closed back in October 2019 and never opened last year because of COVID-19.
The big reopening kicked off Friday with the decades-old tradition of the blessing of the rides, which had an additional blessing this time around, taking a moment to remember those that were lost this past year.
In addition to the attendance limit, safety measures include requirements that visitors book tickets in advance, get their temperature check at the gate, and socially distance nd wear masks once they are inside.
The opening is a relief to the parks, which the Alliance of Coney Island estimates lost a collective $100 million while closed.
"They're really the cornerstones here. They offer just so many jobs. So I think for the community, it was very difficult, and it was obviously a rough year, but to see the rides without lights, without any movement for the whole year, I think that was a very shocking thing. So to see it come alive now and to have some visitors back, have people vaccinated and more and more will be vaccinated, we're just looking forward to a great summer," said Alexandra Silverstein, executive director of the alliance.
Dozens of health care workers and local officials also joined for the ribbon cutting and to ride the Cyclone themselves.
“The rides open today, our hearts open up too because we love this place, we love this place, and we love the fact that today, we are focusing on our health care heroes. We're giving them the first opportunities here because they saw us through the crisis. They were there day after day," said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
After opening day, the amusement parks are only open on weekends until Memorial Day, when they will open seven days a week.