Hundreds of thousands of sun worshippers flocked to Coney Island this weekend for fun of epic proportions. Festivities kicked off the evening of Friday, June 21 with the lighting of the Parachute Jump, debuting its $2 million makeover. Local elected officials were on hand, along with the Zamperla family, who was responsible for bringing Luna Park to Coney Island and Natalia Quintavalle, the counsel general of Italy.
“Let me tell you how Coney Island is shaping up for the children of today and tomorrow and the young at heart like the rest of us,” commented Borough President Marty Markowitz. “Tonight we will show that Coney Island is back and better than ever.”
Before the lighting, children from P.S. 90 sang and there were performances by local dance troupes, including Diva Dance Studio.
The landmark, which can now be seen from space, was lit after the Brooklyn Cyclones won their game. Then, a spectacular fireworks display ensued, starting off the summer solstice with fanfare. Fireworks will take place every Friday night this summer, though August 26.
The following day was the legendary Mermaid Parade. Since its future was in jeopardy in the aftermath of Sandy, residents came out in full force raising funds through KickStarter.
This year, actor Judah Friedlander was King Neptune and “Real Housewife of New York City” Carole Radziwill was Queen Mermaid. Fun-seekers from near and far came to watch the spectacle.
“I am loving it. I will be back every year from now on,” said Rosa Jimenez of Jamaica, Queens. She had two guests this past weekend who came into town to see the parade: Linda DeMarchi from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Toni Plaza from Buffalo, New York.
“Yesterday afternoon, I said, ‘I’m bored, I’m coming to the parade!’” said DeMarchi, who traveled 12 hours on a bus to make it to Coney Island.
“I love it!” Plaza said, as she watched vintage cars go by. “My son builds Mercedes-Benz [vehicles]. He should be here next to me!”
But not everyone supported the festivities. Some of those who live in Coney Island protested the Parachute Jump lighting, contending that there was enough money to give the landmark a multi-million dollar makeover, while many apartments are still running on generators.
“When the rides turn off and the lights go out, we still live here. We see the poverty, the drug use, the health issues, the lack of resources and opportunities and basic necessities,” said the People’s Coalition of Coney Island in a statement. “We see our friends and children getting shot in the street. Coney Island has been plagued for decades by high levels of poverty and related problems, but in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the perpetual crisis in our neighborhood has reached a new level of urgency.”