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December 21, 2014
Monday, May 12, 2014

Coney Island enters new era

File photo shows people riding the Cyclone at the Astroland Amusement park in the Coney Island neighborhood.

Change has come again to New York City's Coney Island seaside resort, famous since the mid-19th century for its carnival atmosphere, sandy beaches and amusement parks.

After decades of decay, the neighborhood in Brooklyn has been spruced up with new rides, restaurants and refurbished theme parks still called Dreamland and Luna Park in keeping with its rich history.

Long a summer haven on the Atlantic Ocean for blue-collar families, Coney Island now also attracts foreign tourists and affluent so-called hipster Millennials who have moved to Brooklyn borough in droves.

Home to landmarks including the 150-foot-tall (46-meter-tall) Wonder Wheel, the 87-year-old Cyclone wooden roller coaster, Nathan's Famous hot dog stand and a boardwalk peppered with kitschy shops and sideshows, many small businesses and family-owned theme parks have been pushed out in the past five years.

Aging boardwalk staples including the Astroland amusement park, Shoot the Freak and the Zipper ride that turned visitors upside-down have been replaced by larger, state-of-the art rides. One famous ride, the Thunderbolt, is returning this summer after operating from the 1920s to the 1980s. This time it will be made of steel, not wood.

Coney Island, a four-mile-long (6.4-km-long) peninsula in southwestern Brooklyn, is one of New York City's most visually distinct neighborhoods. Controversy has often surrounded development and changes by various property owners at Coney Island since the 1840s, when the first structures were built.

Now, city officials want to transform Coney Island in the way Times Square in Manhattan was revamped in the 1990s, when peep shows and prostitutes were pushed out to make way for tourist-friendly restaurants and theaters.

The drive to revamp was accelerated by Superstorm Sandy in October 2012, which washed out the boardwalk, temporarily shut the New York Aquarium and flooded businesses and homes.

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