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Coney Island amusement parks attract 640,000 visitors in 2011

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Coney Island's amusement parks have welcomed 640,000 visitors during 2011 so far, the highest figure since the closure of the historic Steeplechase Park in 1964.

The New York Daily News reports that Coney Island's two new parks, both majority-owned by Italian ride manufacturer Zamperla, saw a 40% attendance increase compared to 2010. The news is a boost for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has championed efforts to revitalize the area.

The regeneration began with the opening of Luna Park in 2010. Constructed at a cost of $30 million, it sits on the former site of the defunct Astroland amusement park. Operated by Central Amusement International, which is controlled by Zamperla, it is used as a showcase of the company's ride catalog. Prototypes of new attractions sit alongside two family-friendly roller coasters.

Luna Park is named after a previous amusement park which operated at Coney Island between 1903 and 1944. The original park played a key role in establishing amusement parks as fixtures of coastal resorts, and directly influenced the opening of similar attractions including the identically-named Luna Parks in Melbourne and Sydney in Australia.

In 2011, another new addition debuted on the Coney Island coastline. Aimed at older guests, Scream Zone features two custom-designed roller coasters along with a handful of other thrill rides. Its opening has helped to boost the 2011 attendance numbers.

Earlier this year, Zamperla took over operations of the Coney Island Cyclone, a historic roller coaster that first opened in 1927. The company claimed to be ready to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairing and restoring the ride.

Not everybody is happy about the apparent success of the $150 million Coney Island regeneration project. A number of smaller business, stalls and shops have suffered forced evictions in order to make way for the Luna Park and Scream Zone developments, with many accusing the city authorities of destroying the area's character.

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