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Coney Island is open for business

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Photo gallery

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All aboard: The Cyclone’s operator, Zamperla CEO Valerio Ferrari, (right), and Nathan Bliss of the Economic Development Corporation, settled in for the first ride of the season.
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Taking the plunge: The iconic wooden roller coaster is just as scary as ever.
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Inked up: Erick, “Mr. Cyclone,” Knapp shows off his roller coaster tattoo.
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Coney fun: Red Hook residents Jessica Breitenbach, 19, and Jayleen Cordoba, 3, enjoyed the Speed Boat ride at Luna Park.
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Flying high: Sheepshead Bay’s Eleni Sakkas, 12, took an inaugural spin on the new Brooklyn Flyer ride.
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Vote of approval: Samantha Stangarone, 17, of Gravesend, gave the new-and-improved Cyclone two thumbs up.
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Surfs up, dude: Daniella Viro and sons Daniel and Luca were big fans of Luna Park’s Surfs Up ride.

Classic attractions stole the show at Coney Island’s summer season kickoff on April 1.

Crowds flocked to the landmark 85-year-old Cyclone roller coaster, which gave its fans a free inaugural spin after officials, led by Borough President Markowitz, christened the ride with a ceremonial bottle of egg cream, and the 92-year-old Deno’s Wonder Wheel, where the first 100 people in line received a half-price whirl.

“The level of enthusiasm from the first riders of Deno’s Wonder Wheel and the Cyclone point to a great summer season ahead,” said Nate Bliss, the president of the Coney Island Development Corporation, the government agency that’s slowly transforming the People’s Playground into a glitzy year-round tourist destination.

The rides might be historic, but both got high-tech makeovers: the Cyclone debuted several hundred feet of new track meant to give riders a smoother, less rickety experience, while the Wonder Wheel added solar-powered lights.

Several other old-school Coney icons are also getting fancy face-lifts — including Ruby’s Bar and Paul’s Daughter, two businesses that landlord Central Amusement International agreed to bring back to the Boardwalk, along with an expanded Nathan’s hot dog stand, and a new outpost for the legendary Prospect Heights eatery Tom’s Restaurant.

Central Amusement’s 19-ride Luna Park also opened to fans on Sunday. The amusement giant is planning to expand its Scream Zone with a go-cart track and the 110-foot high Sky Coaster, which will swing riders through the air at speeds of up to 60-miles-per-hour, this summer.

The amusement district’s rides will be open on weekends until Memorial Day, then seven days per week through Labor Day.

But some longtime favorites will be missing this season:

Beer Island, Cha-Cha’s Bar, and three other Boardwalk shops were evicted by Central Amusement to make way for fancier stores, though Cha-Cha’s is planning to reopen a restaurant on Surf Avenue and a new neighborhood bar.

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at dbush@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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