Coney Island’s Astro Tower brings riders to new heights

Imagine being strapped into a seat and then soaring nearly 140 feet into the air where you can enjoy breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the majestic Manhattan skyline on the other.

Visitors to Luna Park in Coney Island don’t have to imagine it. They can live it, thanks to a new ride that made its public debut on May 25.

Give a big welcome to Astro Tower, a new ride taking its place among the Cyclone, the Thunderbolt and other world famous amusements at the seashore.

Local officials like Community Board 13 District Manager Eddie Mark joined representatives from Luna Park for a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the grand opening of Astro Tower Friday morning.

George Shea, the impresario who runs the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest every July 4, welcomed visitors to the ceremony and sought to put the Astro Tower into historical perspective.

“Last year, we celebrated the 90th birthday of the Cyclone. This year we celebrate the birth of a great new ride,” Shea said.

Luna Park boasts 31 rides, with two more set to make their debuts this summer.

“Each year, Coney Island gets bigger and better,” said Alessandro Zamperla, president of Luna Park, who noted that the new ride was making its debut on the same day the Coney Island beach opened for the season.

Zamperla also noted that 2018 will mark the Reigelmann Boardwalk’s first year as a city landmark. The New York City Landmarks Commission officially declared the boardwalk a scenic landmark earlier this month.

“It’s time for the sun after a long winter. Let the fun begin!” Zamperla said.

Standing 137 feet tall, Astro Tower brings riders to the top of the tower and slowly rotates to give riders a panoramic view that extends for miles. While they are up in the air, riders are treated to a series of bounce and drop sequences to add to the excitement. At the end of the experience, riders are gently brought back down to ground level.

Several people couldn’t wait for a chance to be among the first to try out the Astro Tower.

“’It was amazing. The view is incredible from up there,” said Yenna Betler.

Mark sampled the new ride, giving this paper a thumbs-up just before take-off.

The Astro Tower will be a beautiful sight at night, according to Zamperla, who said the ride contains 5,258 lights and will feature a spectacular light show each evening.

Alexandra Silversmith, executive director of the Alliance for Coney Island, said the Zamperla Family, which operates Luna Park, constantly thrives to bring the playground into the future with new, more inventive rides, while at the same time paying homage to the park’s glorious past.

Silversmith also took a ride on the Astro Tower. “It’s not scary at all. I think a lot of people would enjoy it,” she said.

The alliance is looking forward to a successful summer, according to Silversmith, who added that Coney Island is expected to welcome 5 million visitors this year.

Luna Park, located at 1000 Surf Avenue, is open seven days a week during the spring and summer.

The city spotlight was shining on Coney Island in a big way on May 25.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver came to Coney Island Beach in the afternoon to officially declare Coney Island and the city’s other beaches open for the summer season. The city’s eight public beaches will remain open through Sunday, September 9.

The mayor also celebrated the new landmark status of the Riegelmann Boardwalk, commonly known as the Coney Island Boardwalk. The boardwalk opened 95 years ago.

“Beach season is officially here, and there’s no better way to kick it off than by celebrating our historic Coney Island Boardwalk’s new landmarked status and 95th birthday,” de Blasio said.

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