NEW YORK (AFP) - New York's Coney Island echoed with the sound of screams of delight from roller coasters again Friday (April 9) as its famous amusement parks reopened for the first time since the pandemic.
The reopening of the attractions is the latest example of New York City creeping back to normal after cinemas, sports arenas and some theatres resumed operations, albeit with limited capacity, in recent weeks.
"We are delighted to welcome the city back," said Mr Dennis Vourderis, whose family owns the boardwalk's 45m-high Wonder Wheel that first opened inside Deno's Amusement Park in 1920.
"I have missed the kids running around on the rides," he added, saying many business owners in the "People's Playground" in Brooklyn still face a battle to survive following the lengthy shutdown.
"The challenges are insurmountable. Being closed for an entire 18 months is very challenging for a business like this," Mr Vourderis told AFP.
The parks were last open in 2019 after the pandemic wiped out the whole of the 2020 season.
For now, they are restricted to 33 percent capacity, or 1,000 people at any one time, while face masks and social distancing are mandatory.
Those restrictions didn't take anything away from the experience of Ms Maritsa Mansuroglu, who brought her two boys to a place she has frequented since childhood.
"Coney Island is like the biggest attraction that we have here in New York so it was really important to get here," she told AFP.
Mayor Bill de Blasio was among the first to enjoy the attractions, taking a ride on Luna Park's Cyclone, a steep wooden roller coaster that debuted in 1927.
"Coney Island is back and it will be better than ever," said the 59-year-old Democrat, who also announced that the neighbourhood's beaches, usually crowded in summer, would open as usual at the end of May.