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Coney Island Polar Bear Club brrr-rings in the new year

The scene New Year's Day on the beach

The scene New Year's Day on the beach at Coney Island.   Credit: Charles Eckert

The 60-year-old nanny from Yonkers wore her two-piece bathing suit to plunge into the Atlantic Ocean on New Year’s Day.

“Some people do drugs. We do this,” said Carlota Wojnar, staying warm near Nathan’s in a white zip-up onesie, an ursine-themed hat and paw-printed mittens, at the 116th Coney Island Polar Bear Club Plunge.

She plunged twice, including with fellow club members before the official event: once in the 38-degree morning, and again in the 39-degree afternoon.

Wasn’t she cold?

“When I go into the water, of course I feel cold,” said Wojnar, originally from Honduras. “I’m a human. Not a bear!”

The annual event — sponsored by the club, which swims Sundays from November to April — draws thousands of humans: about 30,000 people, including about 3,000 who went into the water, club vice president Suzanne Tomatore of Bay Ridge said.

“It’s about washing out the old and bringing in the new,” she said from the group’s clubhouse shortly before the 1 p.m. “plunge time,” the first of seven, five-minute blocks that divide up the plungers. 

The event is free but raises money for local charities, she said.

Plungers had to sign a waiver absolving the club of liability over, among other unlikely but possible calamities, “Risks arising from exposure to large and sudden changes in environmental temperatures that can lead to loss of consciousness, Hypothermia, heart attacks, frostbite and other life-threatening conditions.”  Also: “injury, paralysis or death.”

(Everyone was safe, Tomatore said afterward.)

“We’ve got some crazy people!” the emcee said as the first plungers waited to charge at the Atlantic Ocean. He urged people to walk, not run.  

There was running. Lots.

Shane Sullivan, 18, a Brooklyn College student from Gerritsen Beach, was shivering after emerging from the water; he said, “I’ll probably do it again next year.”

“It’s a good precedent to start the year on,” he said, to which his friend, Jake Samuelsen, added: “It makes the rest of your New Year's resolutions seem easy.”

John Kersten, 33, of Bedford Stuyvesant, went on his own, almost an hour early, saying he couldn’t find the registration line and didn’t want to wait around for the official event anyway.

“Yeah, I’m cold, man, but there’s worse things,” said Kersten, a colorist in film and TV production, “like not pushing yourself, or not waking up early on New Year’s.”

“Things like this put you at the center of your own existence,” he said of the plunge. 

He met Erik Boquist, 21, a college student visiting from New Hampshire who enjoys “cold-exposure” activities.  

Still wet and shirtless, Boquist said: “It kind of zaps the breath out of your lungs, and then you’re like oh, [expletive].” 

Stephen Reinert, 53, of Sunset Park, took the plunge with his son, Sebastian, 10, in the official event.

Does Reinert feel like a new man for a new year?

“My body is chilled right now, so I feel different than when I went in. Maybe a little bit. Maybe,” he said, wearing a monogrammed bathrobe on the beach.

Reinert's wife, who kept the bathrobe while the two went in, opted not to go in, he said.

He joked: “She’s so whiny.”

Or maybe she's just smart.

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