Easter Sunday was supposed to mark the season opener for Coney Island’s amusement district. But on that day, Dennis Vourderis felt resigned by what was beyond his control: keeping the rides that power smiles and thrills at this seaside community from shutting down.

Coronavirus was tearing through the state, and wound up killing 671 on that very day. The pandemic swiftly ended the hope for any celebration on what would have been the 100th year anniversary of Vouderis's Wonder Wheel in 2020.

"It's almost like the year that never happened; the season that didn't happen,” Vourderis said.

Coney Island, a New York City gem that doubles as a quintessential summer destination, normally draws millions of adventurous day-trippers bound for the ferris wheel, the colossal Cyclone, or the nearby beach overlooking the Atlantic Ocean each season. Since October 2019, not one single person has boarded the landmark rides that give way to exhilarating glimpses of the beach.

Those thrill-seeking moments were also lost at nearby Luna Park, another amusement venue primed to celebrate its decennial. Its owner, Alessandro Zamperla, has not made a single cent since October 2019 and was forced to layoff the full-time staff. Cultural events such as the Mermaid Parade and the Polar Bear Swim were either canceled or shifted virtually.

The neighborhood’s restaurants also suffered, as the lockdown dramatically reduced foot traffic that eateries depend on. Revenue losses are estimated at $100 million, according to Steven Cohen, chair of the Alliance for Coney Island, an economic development group. Cohen also serves as vice president of the Brooklyn Cyclones. The home opener never happened this year.

Since Gothamist first reported on Coney Island earlier during the pandemic, stakeholders have their sights set on 2021, bidding goodbye to a tumultuous year not seen since 2012 when Superstorm Sandy destroyed parts of the Coney Island Boardwalk. An effort by the New York State Hospitality and Tourism Alliance is now underway, with representatives regularly meeting with state health officials to ensure a tangible chance at reopening next year.

“Ninety percent of the amusement district is outdoor venues,” Cohen said. “So, I think we're quite capable of hosting events for the public."

Businesses in the district have been left powerless by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s restrictions that began to roll out in March. The lockdown remains in effect for amusement parks, shut out from Cuomo’s four-phased reopening plan to jumpstart the economy. Not even a safe reopening plan submitted to the state by Vourderis and Zamperla ahead of phase four’s July 20th start date, made any difference.

“We have no plans to sue the governor's office to get open,” Vourderis said. “We would like to work together with the governor's office to establish guidelines that are not only acceptable to operate our amusement parks in a profitable manner, but to keep our guests safe.”

Zamperla agreed.

"We have to understand: what does it mean for us to operate in a COVID-19 context? Because that will be the context for the foreseeable future,” he said.

Cuomo, however, has made no mention over when the state’s amusement park industry, which largely operates outdoors, can reopen.

A spokesperson for the governor did not return a request for comment.

“It was a waiting game. And we're still waiting for those guidelines now,” Alexandra Silversmith, executive director of the Alliance for Coney Island, said.

For Zamperla, reopening is critical to resuming an expansion project of the park that’s laid dormant for months. With COVID-19 leaving Luna Park in dire financial straits, Zamperla is now asking the city Economic Development Corporation, which owns the land Luna Park rests on, for financial assistance and revised lease terms.

“The silence from the city has been very, very hard to take,” said Zamperla, who believes it will take three years to recover.

Vourderis also seeks the same relief, hoping this lost year can be added to the back end of their lease with the city. A spokesperson for the EDC also did not return a request for comment.

For now, Coney Island—like much of New York City—remains in a state of limbo.