A long-awaited expansion of Coney Island’s Luna Park previously postponed by the coronavirus pandemic finally kicked off on Tuesday morning, less than a year before it’s slated to open to the public.
“It is an amazing day for us, there are so many emotions,” said Alessandro Zamperla, president and chief executive officer of Central Amusement International, the developer and operator contracted by the city to run Luna Park.
Zamperla halted his expansion plans for Luna Park in March 2020 when COVID-19 halted all new construction and elected not to restart the project while the amusement district faced financial uncertainty through this passing season.
Now, after a successful summer for the amusement district, the park owner is relaunching a project he says will bring a variety of new entertainment to the People’s Playground — including a custom-made rollercoaster that will intertwine with a new log flume, a ropes course called the Sky Chaser and three new pedestrian plazas filled with food options, games and seating.
Zamperla said the vision for the project was to bring something new to Coney Island — once complete, the log flume will be the only full-scale water ride in the amusement district and each new attraction will offer never-before-seen views of Coney Island Beach and the Riegelmann Boardwalk.
“It’s something that we are missing,” Zamperla said. “A big water ride — that is something that especially our guests keep asking for … and then we said we are going to do something really special, something custom-made so not only do we have the water ride, we have a rollercoaster.”
The project — conducted in partnership with the city’s Parks Department and Economic Development Corporation — will also turn the concrete street ends at Stillwell Avenue, West 12th Street and West 15th Street from Wonder Wheel Way to the Riegelmann Boardwalk into a new trio of pedestrian plazas that will allow visitors to enjoy the amusement district more months into the year, Zamperla said.
“These new pedestrian plazas will be an open-air entertainment destination with food, games and retail locations adorned with shaded seating and greenery that will invite the community and our guests to relax and enjoy Coney Island for more days and longer time,” he said.
Similar to the log flume, Zamperla said the name of the incoming ropes course, the Sky Chaser, was dreamt up by kids at the Coney Island YMCA. Meanwhile, the names of the rollercoaster and the log flume are yet to be decided, he told Brooklyn Paper.
The construction and operation of the new suite of rides at Luna Park is expected to produce thousands of jobs, which will be made easily available to the Coney island community through HireNYC and the Mermaid Avenue Workforce1 Center.
At the Oct. 5 groundbreaking, local Councilmember Mark Treyger applauded the expansion project for its mission to revitalize the amusement district, especially at a time when Brooklynites need the People’s Playground most.
“This is also about activating and reinvigorating this historic amusement district,” Treyger said. “I think this is the most magical place in New York and I think I can say this with certainty. We need Coney Island more than ever.”
Rachel Loeb, president and chief executive officer of NYCEDC, said the amusement district has made huge strides since the amusement district reopened in April, and spoke of all the peninsula’s improvements since the neighborhood’s rezoning in 2009.
“We are excited about all the continuing growth. You can see all the housing that has happened as a result of the rezoning, all the infrastructure improvements, the resiliency improvements,” Loeb said. “It is truly remarkable to see how we’ve come in 10 years and how far we are going to go.”
The Parks Department’s assistant commissioner for projects and planning called the Luna Park groundbreaking a step in the right direction after a hard time through the pandemic.
“For the entire year, there was no Luna Park, there really was no Coney Island,” said David Cerron, “and I think that makes this moment so much more meaningful and exciting.”