Luna Park caught using public fireplug to fill water ride

Where’s the fire?: Luna Park has hijacked this Johnny Pump to fill up the basin on its “Wild River” ride — without city permission.
Community Newspaper Group Will Bredderman

Workers from Coney Island’s Luna Park were caught on camera apparently stealing water from the city, filling up its log flume ride with H2O from a nearby fire hydrant.

A reporter for this newspaper recently spotted workers from the amusement park — which, like most homeowners and merchants, gets a water bill from the city based on a meter installed on the premises — running a hose from a W. 10th Street johnny pump to its ride, where thrill-seekers float in log-shaped boats and are dropped 40 feet for a big, splash-filled finish.

Representatives of the theme park, who were supplied with a photo of a hose running from the fire hydrant to the ride, did not comment on the apparent theft. Instead, spokeswoman Chloe Gallo said the park “maintains good standing with paying all its water utilities.”

But Fire Department officials say that the illegal use of the fireplug could lead to dangerously low water pressure in the area and would hinder the FDNY’s ability to put out infernos — a hair-raising scenario in light of the fact that the park’s namesake burned to the ground in 1944. Several other Coney Island attractions, including Steeplechase Park, Dreamland, and the Ravenhall Baths also went up in flames over the last century, officials said.

“For a business to open a hydrant and bypass their water meter is stealing, and to put the bottom line above the safety of the people in the neighborhood they serve is morally wrong,” said Al Hagen, the president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association.

A Department of Environmental Preservation spokesman confirmed that the park, which sits on city land, is not allowed to use public fire hydrants.

The spokesman said an inspector was dispatched to check out our discovery, but didn’t catch workers using the hydrant. The inspector did give workers a stern warning about using public water, the spokesman said.

This incarnation of Luna Park opened to great fanfare in 2010. Central Amusements rents the property from the city, which purchased the land from developer Joe Sitt in 2009.

An FDNY spokesman said anyone caught cracking open a city hydrant could receive fines of up to $1,000. Chronic users could receive 30 days in jail.

It’s unclear how many gallons of water Luna Park’s log flume holds. The thrill ride’s drop is 10 feet shorter than the Canobie Lake Park log flume in Salem, New Hampshire, which holds 250,000 gallons of water, according to its website.

But whatever the amount, some People’s Playground watchdogs say the park should pay for its water like everybody else.

“They’re avoiding paying for water that every other business in Coney Island has to pay for,” said Friends of the Boardwalk president Todd Dobrin.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at (718) 260–4507 or e-mail him at wbredderman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/WillBredderman

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