Thu. Jun 1st, 2023

Coney Island is as much a state of mind as a physical entity. In song, on film, it has been lauded for more than a century as a magical place to escape to while still in the great borough of Brooklyn.

And among its ongoing, yet evolving attractions is Luna Park. This wonderland is debuting two new attractions, not bothered at all by the pandemic. They are a hold-your-breath roller coaster and a keep-calm ride we used to call the loop-de-loop—the log-flume experience.

Luna Park is a family-owned business being preserved these days by Alessandro Zamperla.

“The rides pay homage to the Coney Island legacy of these attractions,” says Alessandro. “We want to preserve it. It’s a magical place.”

Indeed it is. Luna Park itself is an open-admissions adventure, with guests paying only for the rides they go on.

The roller-coaster is named Tony’s Express, but that’s just for starters. Described as “family-friendly,” it still can get up enough steam to hit a breathtaking 40 miles an hour. It has almost a quarter of a mile of track on which to do its tricks.

Adding to the excitement is the lighting—the new attractions are sparkling with light, giving them a circus feeling as well.

And then there’s the other new big thing—Leti’s Treasure, the log-flume ride. Twelve “boats,” each holding six adventurers, will soar as high as 40 feet. What goes up must come down. And after it reaches its top floor—giving the riders a spectacular view of Coney Island—it speeds down at 35 miles an hour to splash in water (no, not the ocean, but a quite controlled area).

The adjacent boardwalk area has been developed as well, so there is more to do, more places to go, than ever before. It is imbedded into Alessandro’s dna.

“We’ve dedicated two attractions to grandmother and grandfather,” he explains. “We’re the caretakers. I recall walking with my grandfather when it was Astroland. I remember the energy, the atmosphere, the food, the ocean.”

That’s what Coney Island always has been about, and coming out of the pandemic, it is stronger than ever.

He heard of this piece of Brooklyn when he was a boy growing up in Italy, near Venice. His family has been in the amusement business for five generations. In fact, grandmother Letizia (the “Leti” of the new flume ride) often drove a trailer truck around Europe, bringing the ride to folks who weren’t near an amusement park.

Grandson Alessandro came to the United States to study, got his bachelor’s degree at Columbia University, met and married Tracee—and stayed in the family business.

As much as he is involved in the tradition of his ancestors, he also understands the hold Coney Island’s history has on everyone.

“We pay homage to the legacy and nostalgia,” he explains. “Every seat will be lit up. Almost every piece of structure is covered by lights.”

The park had been closed for 528 days during the pandemic. Now, coming out of it along with the rest of America, it’s a time “co connect with your inner child,” says Alessandro.

He recalls fondly that his daughter’s first ride was in Coney—on the Cyclone.

He sounds like a kid himself when he talks of the thrill he still gets coming to this place—“when the sun is shining, there’s nothing else I’d rather do.”

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