A chilly Sunday marked the first day since Hurricane Sandy that Luna Park in Brooklyn's Coney Island was open for business.
Luna Park opens the week before Easter every year, but this year the amusement park's electrical systems needed to be replaced before it could reopen.
Sen. Charles Schumer and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz held the official 29th annual "Blessing of the Rides" on Sunday morning, when the front car of the famed Cyclone roller coaster was "christened" with an egg cream.
Deno's Wonder Wheel was free all day and the first 100 people in line for the Cyclone rode for free.
"It's like an icon, it's like a beginning. It's the representation of Coney Island itself," said Ulyses Bermudez, a Red Hook resident who waited in line for the Cyclone.
Officials said this a celebration of a new season is also a time to renew focus on Sandy recovery efforts, nearly five months after the storm.
"This community was definitely hard hit by Sandy, and it's not only the amusements and concessions that Coney Island is so well-known for, but there's a residential community of about 50,000 people that live here that were all affected by Sandy," said Johanna Zaki of Alliance For Coney Island. "And it's very much still a work in progress but the opening of these amusements today signal a bright upcoming future for this community."
Some residents and business owners from the west end of Coney Island rallied by the amusement park, to raise awareness that the neighborhood is suffering, local businesses are closed and many locals are still without basic necessities.
"The rides are an important part of Coney Island, the amusement area. We know that, a lot of our families work there seasonally. But Coney Island is year-round living and nothing's being done to restore the services here," said one local. "A lot of people are still homeless status, post-Sandy. I'm one of them."
"We don't have heat, hot water, no libraries, no police stations. No post office, we've got to go to the truck to get our mail. But they talk about amusement parks — what about us, what about the children?" said another.
Markowitz said he understood the residents' concerns and welcomed their presence at the park opening.
"It's right for them to be here, so they put right in front of those that have that responsibility, which is from U.S. Senator Schumer, Assembly, [state] Senate, Congress, City Council, borough president, all of us, to make sure that we stay focused on resolving their needs," Markowitz said.
The borough president said elected officials have not forgotten the rest of Coney Island and are fighting for aid to come in quickly.