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Road To Reopening: Luna Park Welcomes Back Guests For Family Fun In Coney Island

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Luna Park amusement park reopened at Coney Island on Friday after an 18-month hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The park has been waiting since October 2019 to welcome back guests, and it's added six new, family-friend rides for Opening Day, CBS2's John Dias reported.

This season, the rules will be different because of the pandemic.

  • All guests over the age of 2 are required to wear face masks for admission and throughout their stay
  • There will be physical distancing, including on rides and eating areas
  • Reduced capacity of 33%
  • Hand sanitizing stations at every ride

Watch John Dias's Report --

Opening Day usually meant the unofficial start to spring, with all the fanfare of Deno's Wonder Wheel and Nathan's hot dogs. But this time, after a roller coaster of a year, thrill seekers waited 529 days to bring the fun back to Coney Island.

The park opened at 11:30 a.m. Beforehand, an egg-cream-christening of the Coney Island Cyclone took place; 100 frontline workers were the first to ride it.

"I love the Cyclone. The Cyclone is one of my favorite rides," said Sam Zito, a patient care associate at Coney Island Hospital. "It was the first ride I've ever been on as a kid."

In all, 500 admission wristbands were donated to NYC Health + Hospitals, CBS2's Natalie Duddridge reported.

"I'm very excited to be here, especially during such a tough time," said Alina Lisshits, a registered nurse at Coney Island Hospital who cared for hundreds of COVID patients and lost her father.

WATCH: Mayor De Blasio Speaks At Luna Park Reopening Ceremony -- 

"We are thrilled. Coney Island is New York City's major outlet for outdoor recreation, for enjoying nature, for staycations all summer long for over 8 million New Yorkers," said Dick Zigun, founder of Coney Island USA.

"I got up very early today because I was looking forward for this moment," said Hilda Pabon, a Coney Island resident.

"Coney Island is a magical place. It attracts all kinds of people, and the most important thing is to have the kids smiling and everyone's happy, and it's a good place," said William Petrosino.

"We couldn't be here last year, and it's so great to be with our fellow New Yorkers," circus performer Harold Moller said.

"I'm excited 'cause I'm gonna go on all the big rides," one child said.

"Coney hasn't been open in a few, you know, probably a few months, so it's just been nice getting out here," Bronx resident Darien Tang said.

"Coronavirus got everybody down and depressed. This is a different scenery. Everybody's happy," said Aaliyah Lawson, of Jamaica.

The reopening brought out the kid in everyone. Even Mayor Bill de Blasio took a ride on the Cyclone.

"Coney Island coming back is part of New York City's recovery, New York City's comeback... It's going to be an amazing summer, I'm telling you," de Blasio said.

Luna Park employs more than a thousand people, and it's a big boost for restaurants and shops in the area.

"We are a major employer of teenagers entering the workforce, summer jobs... thousands of jobs," Zigun said.

The park is only open on weekends until Memorial Day. After that, it will be open daily.

Watch Natalie Duddridge's report --

The reopening comes as other parts of the City That Never Sleeps are starting to wake up, too.

While Broadway shows are expected back in September, the Off-Broadway show "The Office! A Musical Parody" was the first musical to return Friday in New York City at 33% capacity. It is among the first full performances.

"We haven't seen a show in a long time, and we love going to see off-Broadway stuff, so this is pretty exciting," one theater-goer told CBS2's Ali Bauman.

Live music is back at Minton's Playhouse in Harlem, with musicians eagerly returning to the famous jazz club.

"To see things starting to open back up again I think gives all of us hope that, you know, we've been through a rough spell, but as always, the arts will bounce back," New Jersey resident Jonathan Mehl said.

The city is starting to bustle above ground and below. The MTA says more than 2 million riders took the subway Thursday, the highest single-day ridership since last March.

"There can be no recovery unless New Yorkers return to transit, and we're thrilled to see more and more customers in the system every day," said Sarah Feinberg, interim president of New York City Transit.

The Mets and Yankees also welcomed fans back to the ballparks for the first time since 2019.

CBS2's John Dias, Natalie Duddridge and Ali Bauman contributed to this report.


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