Why reopening ceremonies are so important in New York right now
When Coney Island reopened this month after more than a year of illness, death and unemployment, officials wanted to make sure the ceremony had the right tone: one of joy, but also of respect and gratitude.
“We know this wouldn’t be possible without the heroes on the front lines who have helped save countless lives and continue to help our community heal from the pandemic,” said Alessandro Zamperla, President and CEO of Central Amusement International, owner of Luna Park.
To that end, the first passengers to ride the Cyclone, the 90-plus-year-old wooden roller coaster, would be 100 essential workers at the nearby Coney Island hospital, selected in a raffle.
One of the lucky runners was Dawn Lanzisera, who works in the psychiatric emergency room. “I grew up near here,” she said of the Brooklyn neighborhood. She’s no stranger to the Cyclone, she’s done it over 100 times, she said. “It’s so great to be here and to see life come back.”
Steven Kushnir, a supervisor in the patient accounts department, didn’t feel so confident before the experience. “I will definitely scream,” he said. “I’m happy to have seen someone take a test drive before,” he continued. “This hike is almost 100 years old. You don’t want to be the first. “
But for official purposes, that day he and his colleagues were the first. As soon as the speeches ended and the doors opened, the rickety roller coaster cars, filled with hospital workers, began their ascent to the top, which offered breathtaking views of the ocean and mountain. walk. As the roller coaster plunged 85 feet, the screams may have reflected the release of a year of pandemic tensions.
And just like that, after 529 days, Coney Island Amusement Park was open again.
It’s been a spring of reopening around New York City, with bars, restaurants, hotels, movie theaters and even theme parks coming back to life after closing. Rather than turning on the lights and opening the doors, many homeowners have sought to celebrate with meaningful gestures. Some places, like Luna Park, pay homage to frontline workers. Others sanctify their spaces with good luck ceremonies.
“We couldn’t with a straight face pretend it was another day in the office,” said John Vanco, managing director of IFC Center, an independent cinema in Greenwich Village.
At the beginning of March, the theater reopened with a series entitled “What we missed? – films which came out during the pandemic but which did not have the chance to appear on the big screens. Mr. Vanco and his team, fully aware that sitting indoors with strangers was not yet going to come naturally for many New Yorkers, wanted to mark this busy occasion with something special. Mr. Vanco therefore contacted the directors of the selected films and asked them to make short films presenting their work and welcoming moviegoers again.
“I know you might have big TV screens at home, but not like this screen,” said Spike Lee in his short film, which featured “Da 5 Bloods”.
Miranda July, presenting “Kajillionaire,” her latest feature film, told viewers, “I wish I was right there with you and not at home in my bathroom.”
Mr. Vanco was amazed at how easy it was to persuade directors to do this, especially since he only had 10 days to put the series together. “They all enthusiastically agreed,” he said. “In the old days, I would never have contacted Miranda July.”
Ahead of the reopening of the Mandarin Oriental in Columbus Circle this month, Susanne Hatje, its managing director, consulted with the brand’s feng shui master in Hong Kong. Together, they deemed it appropriate to open the doors of the hotel at 12:08 p.m. “He said eight is a lucky number in Chinese culture because it sounds like the word for wealth and prosperity,” Hatje said.
On April 1, the morning of the reopening, 100 staff – from housekeepers to executives – had their temperatures checked and then gathered in the 36th-floor ballroom, with stunning views of Central Park and Midtown, to a traditional lion dance. Costumed artists danced to bring good luck, wealth and prosperity to the hotel and to New York in general.
Employees feasted on salmon, Asian-inspired salads and giant fortune cookies with handwritten messages before Ms Hatje and the lion dancers descended on the hotel entrance for a champagne toast to mark the opening of 12:08. “We had four guests waiting there, eager to check in for their stay,” she said.
This month, The Well, a wellness retreat near Union Square, gathered its staff for a multifaceted ceremony of intent just before it reopens. For 45 minutes, staff members participated in a water purification ritual and performed sun salutations. There was a Sikh prayer to bless the space, a meditation to welcome spring after a harsh winter, and the sound of a gong.
“We really need to heal ourselves,” said Rebecca Parekh, co-founder and CEO, “so that we can open the doors and heal our community.
As the officials of Luna Park, Yen Ngo, the owner of the Vietnamese restaurant Van Da, wanted to pay tribute to frontline workers at the time of the official reopening.
On April 2, the restaurant welcomed 75 frontline workers and others who cared for the community during the pandemic – all women – in two seats for a prix fixe dinner with food and wine pairings.
Ms Ngo had asked the restaurant’s Instagram followers to name women who had made a difference during the pandemic, either by working in hospitals or by doing important advocacy or charity work. Two hundred people were nominated.
The women were feted with Van Da specialties like crispy mochi dumplings and turmeric branzino.
“These people kept telling me how happy they were to be there and to be recognized, and how special they felt,” Ms. Ngo said.
“We felt so much positivity,” she added. “It’s one way to get back to normal.”