The Cyclone opens for screaming fans for the first time since Superstorm Sandy
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 yesterday, dozens of eager fans of the Cyclone 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. This is our Yankee Stadium," said Ulysses Bermudez of Red Hook.
The thrill-seekers on hand said they were a little concerned after the Oct. 29 storm that they'd have to wait longer to board the coaster, and were pleasantly surprised it didn't suffer serious infrastructure damage.
Pointing out that the Cyclone and Luna Park were Coney Island icons, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz thanked the volunteers and crews that worked to restore the rides that were damaged storm and to clean up the debris.
Sen. Charles Schumer, who was also on hand for the opening ceremonies, said the federal government paid for the rebuilding efforts, which are still ongoing and include beach restoration.
Markowitz predicted that the revitalized Luna Park -- which houses Deno's Wonder Wheel and other rides -- would bring in even more visitors from all over the world.
"Truth be told, Brooklynites don't vacation in the Hamptons," he said. "Coney Island is where we vacation."
Some residents and business owners, however, said the community's recovery still has a long way to go. A group of civic organizations protested outside the Cyclone, urging the government to speed up the delivery of the $60 billion in Sandy recovery aid.
"The park is great, and we need it back and running but down the block we've got nothing," said lifelong resident and civic leader Carol DeMartino.
Markowitz said he welcomed the protest and encouraged residents to keep raising their voices.
"It is going slow," he said of the recovery efforts. "[The protest] 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 faithfully coming to opening day for the last five years, said the roller coaster is one of the best rides.
It may not be the tallest coaster in the world, but the speed and age of the tracks get to you, Umana said.
"It's a real adrenaline rush," he said.