Kathleen Horan, Reporter, WNYC News
Kathleen Horan is a staff reporter for New York Public Radio, covering the neighborhood beat. She also reports 'Reset', an ongoing series documenting police-community relations in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
The Cyclone, the Wonder Wheel and Ruby's Bar: they’re are all back in business as Coney Island opens for another season.
One of the coming attractions this spring is four new rides in an area known as the The Scream Zone set to open on Wednesday.
Also new are two roller coasters — the Soarin Eagle and the Steeplechase — along with the Slingshot, which shoots riders straight up into the air, and Zenobio, which emulates a wind turbine by spinning riders around at 60 miles per hour.
This year, boardwalk leaseholder Central Amusement International has also taken over operations of the Cyclone.
Officials said they've $20,000 re-painting the Cyclone's cars and its signage, have installed nearly 1,000 new green LED lights, added a new wheelchair-accessible ramp and replaced much of the wooden coaster's track.
The operators are also getting into the food business. The Cyclone Café across from the ride of the same named opened Saturday, offering typical beach fare like hamburgers, fries, salads and pizza with gourmet toppings such as broccoli rabe, artichoke , prosciutto and arugula.
Next month, the operator plans to open a Luna Park gelato stand called Coney Cones, and said they are sending two employees to Italy to learn how to properly make the dessert.
Boardwalk mainstays known as the Coney Island 8 returned this season after successfully fighting their removal by CAI, which said they intended to remodel the boardwalk and find new tenants who could attract visitors year round. The businesses, including 76-year-old bar Ruby's, can stay until at least November.
"It's sort of like having a family member that was given six months to live, and the six months have come and gone and we're still alive," said co-owner Michele Sarrel, "and that's how it feels here at Ruby's. There is time left."
Sarrel said they’ve been making a lot of improvements to the bar like painting, laying down a new floor and replacing the old Formica bar-top with a wooden one. He hopes that the leaseholder will see that old doesn't have to mean crumbling, and that Ruby's ultimately will receive a longer lease.
Fans of Coney Island are mixed about the friction between old vs. new.
Many say they'd like to see them to exist side by side, so New Yorkers can benefit from investments and new jobs while still enjoying the timelessness of the place. CAI hired 450 people to work in the amusement park and the Cyclone Café this season and spent millions opening Luna Park and the coming Scream Zone.
"I like old New York," said tour guide Mark Shulman. "I miss the parts that you cant see anymore on Manhattan and are rapidly vanishing from Brooklyn. So what's here in Coney island is a piece of history."