The changing face of Coney Island

Sun to help operate Coney Island ride

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The Wonder Wheel is going solar!

Deno’s Wonder Wheel — which has spun around in the dark for more than 30 years because of faulty wiring — will be illuminated this summer with a $50,000 solar-powered system that owners say will have it sparkling like the Nile.

Solar panels and 40-watt light bulbs are being affixed to the ride’s metal baskets. When everything is in place and the sun goes down this season, the ride should look like it did when it first opened in 1920, explained Deno Vourderis, whose family owns and operates the legendary Ferris wheel on W. 12th Street near Bowery Street.

“We’re bringing the old look back, we’re just doing it with solar energy this time,” Vourderis said. “We want to keep it classic.”

Vourderis says the small solar panels on top of the ride’s 16 swinging cars will store energy during the day and power the basket bulbs at night.

But the new lighting system won’t be installed on the Ferris wheel’s eight fixed cars — which don’t swing as riders are carried 150 feet into the air for $6 a spin, Vourderis said.

Deno’s Wonder Wheel hasn’t been illuminated since 1981. Vourderis’s father removed the original lights shortly after taking over the ride, fearing that the high-voltage system — which sparked when it rained — would endanger riders.

Vourderis said relighting the Wonder Wheel will be completed by Memorial Day, missing the opening of the Coney Island summer season by two months. The ride opens on April 1, Vourderis said.

But the Wonder Wheel won’t be the only Coney Island attraction to have new lights this summer if Borough President Markowitz gets his way.

Markowitz wants the city to spend $2 million to outfit the historic, 262-foot tall Parachute Jump with enough lights to make it visible from the moon — angering some residents who say the money should be spent to save the Boardwalk instead.

In 2006 the city spent $1.4 million on the Parachute Jump’s lighting display, but Markowitz had the lights removed, claiming they weren’t glitzy enough for the People’s Playground.

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at dbush@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.
Posted 12:00 am, March 28, 2012
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