Step right up! Coney Island to get 23 new rides

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The Independent Online

New York's historic amusement park district, Coney Island, will get a long-awaited relaunch this summer with 23 new rides, including a human slingshot, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday.

The mayor announced that operator Central Amusement International would open most new attractions by the Memorial Day holiday, May 31. Italian company Zamperla, the world's leading amusement rides manufacturer, will provide the rides.

The revamp is meant to give the Brooklyn beachfront neighborhood, one of the world's first amusement parks and supposed birthplace of the American hot dog, a new lease on life after decades of gradual abandonment.

"Coney Island remains one of the most known and beloved neighborhoods around the world, but for decades its famed amusement park has dwindled to just a tiny fraction of what it once was," Bloomberg said.

"We're making necessary infrastructure investments and joining with Central Amusement International to build new amusements that celebrate Coney Island's historic past while featuring modern rides."

The rides will be built on land the city bought back for 95.6 million dollars from a developer in November, following a dispute over the area's future.

This summer is expected to see the opening of 19 rides, including "Air Race" in an area dubbed "Luna Park at Coney Island" in honor of a famous, historic attraction of the same name that was shut more than half a century ago.

Summer 2011 will see the "Scream Zone at Coney Island," bringing the number of new rides to 23, including two roller coasters, a human slingshot, and go-karts.

The amusements are meant to be part of a newly defined 27-acre amusement and entertainment district, also including new housing, movie theaters and retail areas.

Critics originally worried the redevelopment would kill Coney Island's traditionally offbeat character and put emphasis on retail rather than rides. However, Tuesday's announcement appeared to assure that area would retain its principal mission.

"I am delighted to welcome Central Amusement to America's playground. This summer, Luna Park will shine during the day and sparkle under the stars at night," said Brooklyn borough official Marty Markowitz.

The decline of Coney Island began more than half a century ago. Today the area is a bizarre mixture of surviving rides, like the rickety Wonder Wheel and the aging Cyclone rollercoaster, aloing with lots left empty by speculating developers.