Amusement operators will unleash the Cyclone and whirl the Wonder Wheel nearly a month early for what may well be the last summer on Coney Island as we know it.
Against a backdrop of secretive negotiations between developer Joe Sitt, who owns most of the amusement district, and the city, which wants to buy his land and turn it into a city-owned amusement park, the well-worn “People’s Playground” will kick off its season this Sunday.
The early opening was sparked by an unusually early Easter, the traditional start of the season.
Dennis Vourderis, the owner of Deno’s Wonder Wheel, and one of the few landowners who has not yet sold to Sitt, said he’s focusing on running his shop, not on the negotiations between Sitt and the city.
“My main focus is to get the park ready for all the thousands of kids who will be here this year and next year,” said Vourderis. “Whatever they decide, they’ll decide. I’m here, I’m working, and I’m keeping the place clean and safe for the kids.”
Neighboring Astroland will also open this weekend for its 47th, and possibly last, year. Unlike Vourderis, who owns the land under his Wonder Wheel park, Astroland owner Carol Albert sold her land to Sitt, who was planning to raze the park after the 2007 season. But following an uproar, Sitt agreed to give Astroland a one-year reprieve.
In other news, Lola Staar boutique owner Dianna Carlin announced at last week’s outrageous “Save Coney Island” burlesque fundraiser at Southpaw in Park Slope that she would put a temporary roller skating rink in the old Child’s Restaurant on the Boardwalk, west of Keyspan Park.
“This is representative of the positive change in Coney Island,” said Carlin, who won a “dream come true” competition sponsored by Glamour Magazine.
Carlin, who backs the city’s plan over Sitt’s, will install a temporary floor and mood lighting. The rink will open with a free bash on March 22.