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Coney Island's Luna Park Opens for the Season

By Dana Varinsky | April 13, 2014 6:36pm

CONEY ISLAND — Crowds flocked to Coney Island’s Luna Park Sunday for the amusement park’s opening day of the season.

Luna Park’s gates opened at noon, after a traditional egg cream christening of the Cyclone roller coaster by Alberto Zamperla, president of the group that owns and runs the park, and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

The park offered free rides to the first 100 visitors to arrive. Nicole Purmal, Luna Park’s brand manager, said eager riders began lining up nearly 24 hours in advance, at 2:00 p.m. Saturday.

“New York City has been kind of chilly, so I’d guess New Yorkers are ready to dust the snow and cabin fever off and put their feet in the sand,” she said.

Sunday was the busiest opening day she had experienced since the rehabilitated park officially reopened in 2010. The original Luna Park was founded in 1903 but closed in 1944. After its closing, many of the rides were revived and attracted thrill-seekers when the park was taken over as Astroland which billed itself as a space-age theme park, operating rides from 1962 through 2008.

This will be the fifth season operating as the second coming of Luna Park, and the park is set to debut a new steel roller coaster. The Thunderbolt will open Memorial Day, in the same spot as the iconic coaster by the same name that was memorialized in the movie "Annie Hall."

Larry Neidorf, 11, who lives in Coney Island and frequents the park on a weekly basis during the summer, said he is excited for the new coaster.

“It looks so cool,” he said, adding that he and his friend Daniel Bauman rode the park’s ferris wheel for the first time Sunday.

“I was afraid of how high it was. Now I’m not afraid anymore. I liked the view,” Bauman said.

“It's nice to know you’re in a famous park,” Neidorf added. 

The most well-known ride in Luna Park is the Cyclone roller coaster, which was built in 1927 and became a New York City landmark in 1988. Nicole Purmal said the park has been renovating the coaster, adding new track to make the ride smoother and faster.

Robert Sofia, who brought his 6-year-old son, Cameron and 8-year-old daughter, Liliana to the park for opening day, said they were saving the Cyclone for their last ride of the day.

Sofia said he has coming to Coney Island since he was 8 years old. His family now lives in Sunnyside, Queens, and Sofia said he began bringing his kids to the park last year.

“I get to see the joy on their faces, and to relive my childhood as well,” he said.

Luna Park will be open every day until April 20, and then only on the weekends until Memorial Day. After that, it will open full time until the end of the summer.