It was a lost season for Coney Island amusement parks.
Dennis Vourderis, owner of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, Alessandro and Tracee Zamperla, owners of Central Amusement International/Luna Park, and Alexandra Silversmith, executive director of the Alliance for Coney Island, are upset about the hardships and the lack of answers they’ve faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
They voiced their concerns Tuesday during a Zoom meeting hosted by Councilmember Mark Treyger. The meeting was also attended by U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and State Senator Diane Savino.
“We have sent [the state] reopening plans many months ago and we are waiting for word,” said Vourderis. “This is the first time in 100 years that the Wonder Wheel has not carried passengers. That’s just a travesty. The way the Wonder Wheel was built 102 years ago during the last pandemic, it was designed to be socially distant. The cars are 50 feet apart. People that ride are with their own group and family. It’s one of the most socially distant rides in the world. We appealed and it fell on deaf ears.”
The Zamperia family, which came to the Coney Island amusement district in 2009, shared similar feelings.
“The silence is very hurtful. We are asking for some attention when it comes to the reopening guidelines,” said Alessandro Zamperla. “Give us some guidelines. Give us an opinion on plans we submitted in June. We supplemented those plans with data and science from 45 states and it confirms that outdoor amusement parks can operate in a COVID-19 context given the guidelines provided by the state.”
Treyger provided an outline which he said would alleviate the economic struggles of the amusement district in Coney Island.
He said Congress should pass a federal economic stimulus bill to provide small business grants through the U.S. Small Business Administration; New York State should immediately draft reopening guidance for outdoor amusements; the New York State Legislature should pass legislation to require insurance companies to pay business interruption insurance claims; and New York City should provide rent relief for amusement stakeholders in the form of rent cancellation.
“It makes no sense to draft reopening guidance for indoor casinos in New York State, but no guidance whatsoever for outdoor amusements in Southern Brooklyn,” said Treyger.
The amusement district relies on the months between May and September to generate its revenue for the entire year.
“Coney Island has weathered many storms and tragedies but none has ever stopped the Cyclone,” said Silversmith. “We need an all-hands-on-deck solution from all three levels of government to save them. Direct aid from the federal and state governments and relief from the city is a good start.”
The amusement park owners still hope to reach some clarity from Albany.
“Being an outdoor establishment, we felt it was unfair that we were left out of the picture,” said Vourderis. “We are still fighting and hoping one day we will get some direction. We need financial assistance just like everyone in the world.”
“We invested millions because we believe in the magic of Coney Island and we still do,” said Alessandro Zamperla.