Coney Island beach, amusements reopen after Sandy
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Months after superstorm Sandy devastated Coney Island, the city's top summer spot is officially back.
As officials ushered in a new season for the beach and the amusements Sunday, dozens of eager fans of the Cyclone roller coaster braved cold weather to show the world that the iconic ride and Luna Park weathered the storm.
"When you think about the Cyclone, you think about Coney Island," said Ulysses Bermudez of Brooklyn's Red Hook neighborhood. "This is our Yankee Stadium."
The thrill-seekers on hand said they were a little concerned after the Oct. 29 storm that they would have to wait longer to board the coaster and were pleasantly surprised that it didn't suffer serious damage.
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, pointing out that the Cyclone and Luna Park are Coney Island icons, thanked the volunteers and crew that worked to restore other damaged rides and clean up debris.
The revitalized Luna Park, which also features the Denos Wonder Wheel and other rides, soon will bring in more visitors from around the world, Markowitz predicted.
"Truth be told, Brooklynites don't vacation in the Hamptons," he said. "Coney Island is where we vacation."
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who was on hand for the opening ceremonies, said the federal government paid for the rebuilding, which is ongoing and includes beach restoration.
Some residents and business owners, however, said the community's recovery has a long way to go. A group of civic organizations protested outside the Cyclone, urging the government to speed up the delivery of Sandy recovery-aid money.
"The park is great, and we need it back and running, but down the block we've got nothing," said Carol DeMartino, a lifelong resident and civic leader.
Markowitz said he welcomed the protest and encouraged residents to keep raising their voices.
"It is going slow," he said of the recovery efforts, and the demonstration "reminds us elected officials that we are not back yet."
Several Cyclone early birds waited seven hours in cold, windy temperatures before they could get on and personally give the coaster a post-Sandy shakedown.
Jose Umana, 21, who has been coming to opening day for the last five years, said the roller coaster is one of the best rides because of its fear factor. It may not be the tallest coaster in the world, but the speed and the age of the tracks get to you, he said.
"It's a real adrenaline rush," he said.