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NYC's Coney Island Hopes For Rebound After Sandy

"It's going to take years to get us back to where we were," said Vourderis, standing over hundreds of mint-green quarters that were oxidized so severely that banks won't accept them without first having them cleaned in bleach. "I'm trying to look at the glass half full."

Some Coney Island staples that have been shut since the hurricane have no choice. The flagship Nathan's Famous hot dog stand won't reopen until Memorial Day. The New York Aquarium will reopen, only partially, in late spring. And the Brooklyn Cyclones baseball team is set for its June 18 home opener, though it's unclear whether its damaged field will be replaced with sod or artificial turf.

Gordon Lee's Eldorado Auto Skooter on Surf Avenue has an arcade room with nearly 40 percent fewer arcade games, after salt water ruined much of the machinery.

"I'm functional at this point," said Lee, demonstrating a metal coin wrapper that can no longer turn because its bearings have seized from corrosion. "Look, I'm open and operational. Am I 100 percent operational? No."

Lee has sunk about $100,000 of his savings into recuperating the arcade, buying new machinery and replacing 30 new bumper cars.

"We're open; we're on schedule," he said. "Now we just need people to start coming."

Nearly 11 million people flocked to Coney Island Beach last year between Memorial Day and Labor Day, according to city figures. Many attended well-known attractions, like the Nathan's Famous July 4 International Hot Dog-Eating Contest. And most of Coney Island's boardwalk bars, shops and restaurants are now open to sell cold beers, tchotchkes and fried clams to tourists and New York's most quirky characters alike.

But the strongmen and sword swallowers who perform at the Coney Island Circus Sideshow will be out of work until May 24, when owner Dick Zigun is able to open the first floor of the landmark building that houses it as well as a bar, gift shop and dressing room destroyed by Sandy.

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