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Coney Island’s roller coaster ride to recovery just got a shot of adrenalin.
This summer, nearly 14 million people visited the beach at the People’s Playground, and the city says it’s opening of Luna Park played a major roll in the uptick in business around Brooklyn’s amusement area.
Since Astroland’s replacement opened on May 29, the city says 400,000 visitors rode 1.7 million rides at the new Luna Park — and those in the know say it may have been Coney’s best season since the beachfront’s downward spiral began in the 1950s.
“I saw more people in Coney Island than I have ever seen on Memorial Day,” said Carol Albert, who runs the Cyclone and used to be in charge of Astroland before she closed it down two seasons ago.
The surge in visitors to the area resulted in a boon for local businesses.
“We’ve seen a 40 percent increase in business from last year — largely because of the weather,” said Maya Haddad, the owner of the Coney Island Beach Shop on Stillwell Avenue. “But we’ve noticed a big increase in sales of tourist items — which is probably because of people going to Luna Park.”
Still, Coney Island has a long way to go before it starts reeling in beach-goers to the new amusement attractions, which will be expanding next summer.
The 400,000 visitors may seem like a large number, but 13,961,158 people hit the beach at Coney Island between Memorial Day and Labor Day of this year, according to the Parks Department.
Hopes are high now that business owners’ wallets are a little bit fatter.
“It’s been my best summer in 10 years,” said Dianna Carlin, the owner of Lola Star Boutique, which has stores on the Boardwalk and in the Coney Island subway station.
“People from Brooklyn and Manhattan are coming back — [in previous years] they had the misconception that Coney Island had closed.”
The “new” Coney Island came about in true roller coaster fashion. Developer Joe Sitt, a local businessman best known for buying dilapidated properties and flipping them for a hefty profit, sold the majority of the amusement area to the city last year after years of promising to revitalize the area himself. Once the city took over, it rezoned a large portion of the amusement district as parkland, then brokered a deal with Zamperla, an Italian manufacturer of amusement park rides, to set up shop there.
For now, it seems that move has paid off for local businesses.
Carlin, who had a store in the old Child’s Restaurant west of MCU Park last year, said that business was up 50 percent — though this is in part due to her store reopening on the Boardwalk this summer.
Elected officials touted the high attendance and hyped a new haunted maze called “Nights of Horror” that will be designed by Timothy Haskell, the frightmaster behind a gory and popular haunted house in Manhattan.
The success of Luna Park has led to the extension of its season by three weeks. Beginning on Oct. 15, the new haunted maze and will be open on the weekends. Admission to the maze — and all the rides — will cost $30 at the gate, or can be bought online for $25 at www.lunaparknyc.com.
Councilman Domenic Recchia (D-Coney Island) also plugged a Halloween parade down Surf Avenue.
“We want kids from all over the borough to come to the parade!” said Recchia.
Borough President Markowitz was even more pumped, and said this year’s successes were only the beginning of Coney Island’s resurrection.
“This is all a prelude to Coney Island becoming a year-round destination,” boomed Markowitz.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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