Last bump: Coney Auto Skooter may shut down by summer’s end

Last bump: Coney Auto Skooter may shut down by summer’s end
Photo by Steve Solomonson

This may be your last summer to bump your a– off in Coney Island.

Developer Joe Sitt is considering closing Surf Avenue’s Eldorado Auto Skooter after buying the property from longtime owner Sheila Fitlin earlier this month, but plans are in motion to make sure that the classic Surf Avenue electric bumper car ride — whose famed pink sign told visitors to “bump your ass off” — will remain open for one more season.

Fitlin said she decided to call it quits after running electric bumper cars near W. 12th Street for 39 years.

“It was time,” said Fitlin, who wouldn’t reveal the property’s sale price. “I couldn’t do it anymore.”

The venue hadn’t changed much since Fitlin opened it in the 1970s: it still featured disco music, nightclub lighting, and arcade games like skee ball in the back of the building, which has an entrance on Bowery Street in the heart of Coney’s historic amusement district.

A Sitt spokesman said the developer is hammering out a deal with the arcade’s longtime operator, Gordon Lee, who helped Fitlin and her son run the business, to keep the Eldorado open well into 2013 — but both sides haven’t reached an agreement with two weeks remaining before the start of Coney Island’s summer season.

“Pending that outcome, we’d love to keep the bumper cars operating for at least another year,” Sitt spokesman Stefan Friedman said.

Lee could not be reached for comment.

Friedman declined to disclose Sitt’s plans are for the property, but if the developer’s track record is any indication, the Eldorado won’t be around much longer.

In 2010, Sitt outraged Coney Island preservationists by demolishing Henderson’s Music Hall — where Harpo Marx made his comic debut — at the corner of Surf and Stillwell avenues and the Coney Island Bank building, which was located a few doors down from the Eldorado.

Fitlin opened Eldorado in 1972 with help from her husband and parents — old-time carnies who ran a Coney cabaret during the Great Depression. She returned to the beach each summer to run the venue, even after moving to Texas in the 1990s.

Fitlin hopes that the Eldorado will stay open, but says she isn’t holding her breath.

“Whatever Sitt does is up to him,” she said. “There’s nothing I can do about it.”

Coney’s faithful said they were sad to hear that Filtin — and quite possibly the Eldorado — will be leaving the Amusement District.

“I can’t fault her,” said Dick Zigun, Fitlin’s neighbor on Surf Avenue and the man behind Sideshows by the Seashore. “Her family put in decades of hard work in Coney Island.”

The story was first reported by Amusing the Zillion, a local blog.