Archive for March, 2012

Astroland 2008

Taking Souvenir Photos at Astroland on Opening Day of the Season. March 16, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Coney Island’s traditional Opening Day is Palm Sunday, which also happens to be April 1st this year. We’re celebrating the occasion with a look back at favorite photos of Opening Day beginning with 2008. In that year, Palm Sunday fell early–on March 28th–and State Senator Diane Savino gamely joined the hula-hooping party on West 10th Street.

Diane Savino

Senator Diane Savino hula hoops at Astroland's opening day celebration. March 16, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Opening Day is a time for Coney Island aficionados and friends to take the first souvenir pictures of the season, go for a first spin on Coney’s rides and win the first prize of the year. It’s a day for elected officials who represent the neighborhood to preside over the ceremonial openings of the Cyclone and the Wonder Wheel and for local boosters to show their pride.

Boy wins his first prize of the 2009 season at Water Race Game on Jones Walk

Boy wins his first prize of the 2009 season at Water Race Game on Jones Walk. April 5, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

This Sunday’s festivities begin at 11 am with the Annual Blessing of the Rides by Pastor Debbie Santiago of Coney Island’s Salt N Sea Mission at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, tradition that began in 1983. Free entertainment by face painters, clowns, stilt walkers and DJ Joe follows the ribbon-cutting ceremony hosted by park owners Dennis and Steve Vourderis. Children from the mission receive free rides, lunch and Easter baskets full of toys. The first 100 people on line for the Wonder Wheel get to ride the landmark wheel for half price.

Blessing of the Rides

Pastor Debbie Santiago, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Dennis Vourderis and Borough President Marty Markowitz at Blessing of the Rides at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park. March 28, 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

At 12 noon, the Cyclone Roller Coaster opens for the season with the ceremonial Egg Cream Christening of the first car on the ride’s platform. After dignitaries and guests go for the first ride, the first 100 people on line ride the Cyclone for free. The landmark coaster’s first drop was rebuilt this winter, so it will be interesting to hear what the Cyclone’s fans have to say. Following the ceremony at the Cyclone, the rides at Luna Park and Scream Zone open for the season.

Opening Day

Borough President Marty Markowitz Breaking Bottle of Egg Cream with Miss Cyclone Angie Pontani at Cyclone's Opening Day Ceremony March 28, 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

While most of the Boardwalk stores, including Ruby’s Bar and Paul’s Daughter, are undergoing renovations and Zamperla’s new go karts and Sky Coaster aren’t slated to open till May, there is one new ride to try on Opening Day. The Astroland bumper cars have returned to Coney Island and their new home is Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park.

Coney’s 61 rides and diverse attractions will be open on April 1st from 12 noon till around 8 pm, weather permitting. On West 12th Street under the Wonder Wheel, the Coney Island History Project’s free exhibit center opens at 12 noon. The Coney Island Polar Bears go for their weekly swim at 1 pm and Coney Island USA’s annual Noisefest gets underway at 2 pm.

Thanks as always to ATZ friend and contributing photographer Bruce Handy for his photos of Coney Island’s Opening Day.


Zoltar Speaks joins Grandma's Predictions Under the Wonder Wheel on Opening Day 2011. March 28, 2011. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Related posts on ATZ…

April 12, 2014: April 13: Freebies Abound on Coney Island’s Opening Day

September 13, 2013: Coney Island Always: Visiting the Big CI Year-Round

March 25, 2013: Photo of the Day: Palms on Palm Sunday in Coney Island

March 11, 2012: Photo Album: Under Construction in Coney Island 2012

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If you’re feeling nostalgic for the Eldorado Auto Skooter and yearn to go for the first ride of the year, this HD video will intensify those feelings. Please be patient and send positive vibes to 1218 Surf Avenue in Coney Island.

On Tuesday we talked again with Gordon Lee, who operated the bumper cars and arcade for the Fitlin family last year. He affirmed that he is preparing to open up within the next couple of weeks. We have faith that Lee can make everything come together so that the famed marquee will light up again for one glorious last season of “Bump, Bump, Bump Your Ass Off” rides before it closes forever.

As ATZ reported last week, Sheila Buxbaum Fitlin and Sandy Fitlin, whose families have operated businesses in Coney Island for more than six decades, sold the building that houses the Eldorado to Thor Equities. Their son Scott Fitlin was the DJ extraordinaire of Surf Avenue’s legendary disco palace of bumper cars and his untimely death at the age of 48 left the attraction’s future in question.

“It is with deep regret that I sold Eldorado,” Sheila Fitlin told ATZ. “Due to my advancing age, the fact that I live in Texas, and, of course, Scott’s death, I could no longer continue.” It was a gift to Coney Island and a tribute to his memory that the Eldorado reopened in 2011. We’re hoping for a second gift to Coney Island in 2012.

UPDATE April 12, 2012:

Good news! Gordon Lee of Coney’s Eldorado Bumper Cars phoned to say he’s operating the ride today & open for business! The arcade will also open this weekend for the season. Hours at the Eldorado are “12 noon till closing.”


Related posts on ATZ…

March 30, 2012: 60 Years of Family History in Coney Island End with Sale of Eldorado

October 17, 2010: Photo Album: Oct 15 Tribute in Sound & Light to Scott Fitlin

October 13, 2010: Rest in Peace: Scott Fitlin, Coney Island’s Eldorado Man

March 14, 2010: Eldorado Auto Skooter: Coney Island’s Disco Palace of Bumper Cars

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Lola Star Boutique

New signage set to debut on the Boardwalk: Lola Star Boutique. Photo © Lola Star

When we stopped by Lola Star’s Boardwalk Gift Shop on Friday, rainbow-colored floor tile was being laid and a humongous “Dollar Sale” was in the works. The fashionably skinny boutique was the only store on the Boardwalk open for business since the others are still being renovated.

The new look for the Boardwalk includes lighted signage replacing the quirky hand-lettered signs of recent decades. Both the old and the new Lola Star Gift Shop signs were designed by the shop’s eponymous owner aka Dianna Carlin. On the new sign, the ‘Lola Star’ is pink neon, the 3D clouds are outlined with dancing circus lights, and the face and star illuminated in brilliant color, she says. The sign will be installed in the next few weeks. According to Carlin, this sign is merely Phase 1. “In Phase 2 there is going to be a gigantic disco ball rotating on the roof with a 3D Lola Star on Roller skates standing on the disco ball!”

The Lola Star Boutique is also undergoing an expansion into the back room formerly used for storage. The “Dollar Sale” of toys and treasures from the boutique’s inventory continues Thursday through Sunday from 12 – 6 pm. “The most popular item in our dollar sale thus far are our action figures! Jesus, Mozart, Marie Antoinette, Van Gogh and more… usually $10 now on sale for only $1,” says Carlin. “We’ve also been selling lots of grow toys for $1. Grow a mermaid, boyfriend, sugar daddy, desperate housewife and more!”


Related posts on ATZ...

December 9, 2011: Lola Star Boutique Signs 8-Year Lease for Coney Island Boardwalk

November 15, 2011: Coney Island 2012: What’s New on the Boardwalk

January 2, 2010: Photo Album: Coney Island Boardwalk, New Year’s Day 2010

July 25, 2009: Coney Island’s Xanadu: Dreamland Roller Rink Celebrates First Birthday

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Coney Island Cat

Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat. March 23, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

POW! Target the world-famous Coney Island Arcade Cat agreed to a photo session atop the freshly painted tables on the Bowery. His human is Manny, the owner of the arcade and the games. During the season, Target can be found lounging on the counter calling in customers.


Related Posts on ATZ…

February 21, 2011: Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat & His Friend Pretty

January 26, 2011: Photo of the Day: Henderson Music Hall Cats Now Homeless

May 6, 2010: R.I.P. Targette, the Coney Island Arcade Cat’s Shy Sister

January 27, 2010: I Love NYC Pets Month Preview: Coney Island Cat Rescue

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Burlington Arcade

Burlington Arcade by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd, 1827-28

Not done desecrating Coney Island’s amusement area by evicting longtime tenants and creating empty lots, Thor Equities moved on to London in 2010. Joe Sitt’s first European acquisition was the Burlington Arcade, London’s first covered shopping arcade, built in 1819, which was purchased with Meyer Bergman.

London’s reaction to the developers’ plan to modernize the historic arcade calls to mind the uproar that greeted Thor’s original plan to Vegas-ify and mall-ify Coney Island. “Owners about to turn 192 years of history into a bland mall,” tweeted antique silver dealer and arcade tenant Daniel Bexfield, who is leading a campaign to Save Burlington Arcade. “In case you didn’t know, anyone from anywhere can lodge a complaint with Westminster City planning department,” he told ATZ. If you’d like to file a transatlantic protest, here’s a copy of the campaign letter:

19th March 2012
‘Save Burlington Arcade’ – AGAIN!

I am writing to ask for your help once more. The campaign to Save Burlington Arcade has been spurred back into action just a few months after our victory last year. The Arcade owners have now submitted fresh plans to Westminster City Planning Department to replace the existing floor with a brand new highly-polished black and beige quartzite tiled floor.

Hard shiny quartzite can already be seen in modern shopping malls (and bathrooms) the world over. I believe it would be completely out of character and wholly inappropriate in the Arcade, which is not a Las Vegas or Dubai-style shopping mall. When the original applications were submitted last year to ‘modernise’ the Arcade, celebrity protestors included Dame Judy Dench, Stephen Fry and Joanna Lumley along with other notable supporters such as Deputy London Mayor Kit Malthouse, Ken Livingstone, the Baroness Boothroyd, Rob Brydon, Alan Davies, Kelly Hoppen, Jay Rayner and Michael Winner. They all lined up alongside hundreds of ‘ordinary’ horrified Londoners and visitors alike, to make their feelings known.

The Arcade’s foreign owners (Joseph Sitt of Thor Equities & Mayer Bergman) dreamed up sweeping changes, with infamous American ‘architect’ Peter Marino, to oust small traders in favour of big-name fashion brands such as Prada, Gucci and Chanel with their infinitely deeper pockets.

Burlington Arcade is part of our heritage and must be preserved. If commercial owners do not appreciate what they are buying into when they invest into such unique properties, that is their problem – we should not let them vandalise our city just to make a quick buck.

The clock is ticking – and we only have until March 31st to lodge objections to their submitted planning application. Anyone who wishes to object must do so quickly – details of how to object can be found at my website: www.bexfield.co.uk.

Or you can write to: Westminster City Planning Department, Westminster City Hall, 64 Victoria Street, London, SW1E 6QP, quoting the reference no. 12/01433/LBC, along with your name and address, stating that you ‘object to the application’.

Yours sincerely,

Daniel Bexfield

Last year, Sitt launched a defense of his plans for the Burlington Arcade in an interview with the Financial Times of London. He brought up his track record with three historic properties in the U.S.– the Palmer House in Chicago, the Phelan Building in San Francisco and good old Coney Island. Sitt said: “In all three situations, there were critics who doubted we could revitalise these buildings and neighborhoods while staying true to their unique history. And in all three places we’ve already proved–or are in the process of proving–those doubters wrong.”

London’s Westminster Council is to be commended for meeting the challenge of preserving an historic property. To the Council, we would say Joe Sitt has a long way to go to prove the Coney Island doubters wrong. What he has done here is evict amusement operators, demolish historic buildings and create empty lots. After seven years of predatory real estate speculation and many grandiose renderings, Thor Equities first-ever new construction in Coney Island (flea market tents don’t count) was revealed to be a sterile-looking building suited for a suburban mall. Thor’s space for lease signs with the odious slogan “Coney Island: Retail Ride of a Lifetime” are an insult to Coney’s unique and glorious history. The vacant new building stands on the site of a century-old music hall that was sacrificed by the City of New York in the Coney Island rezoning and demolished by Thor Equities.


Related posts on ATZ…

February 2, 2012: Thor’s Coney Island: Generic New Building at Surf & Stillwell

September 9, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Faber’s Fascination Goes Dark After 50 Years

April 29, 2010: Photo of the Day: Interior of Coney Island’s Doomed Henderson Music Hall

March 3, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: What Stillwell Looked Like Before Joe Sitt

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Coney Island Cherry Blossom

Young Cherry Blossom Tree on Wonder Wheel Way, Coney Island. March 23, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

It’s time to sing “Sakura, Sakura, ya-yo-i no so-ra wa…,” the Japanese folk song about cherry blossoms waving in the breeze. Yesterday in Coney Island, we happened to notice the littlest cherry tree beginning to blossom on Wonder Wheel Way. The sapling was planted last spring, when this section of the new pedestrian street was built between Stillwell Avenue and West 12th Street. Deno’s Wonder Wheel, the Astrotower and Scream Zone’s Steeplechase Coaster are seen in the background. Designed to connect the Parachute Jump, Wonder Wheel and Cyclone, Wonder Wheel Way will eventually extend from West 12th to West 10th Street.


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Coney Island shooting gallery target

Cast Iron Paratrooper Shooting Gallery Target. Made by W.F. Mangels Co., Coney Island, NY. Morphy Auctions

This rare and delightful cast iron shooting gallery target made by Coney Island’s William F. Mangels is on the auction block at Morphy Auctions. The April 20-21 sale is in central Pennsylvania with online bidding via Live Auctioneers.

The catalogue description says “Made by W.F. Mangels Co., Coney Island, New York. Professionally made mounting stand. Two piece casting. Minor crack on the head of the parachutist. Superb surface and paint. Rare carnival shooting target. Condition (Excellent). Size 18″ T. Estimate: $2,000 – $2,500.”

William F. Mangels, the Coney Island-based inventor of such early 20th century thrill rides as the Whip and the Tickler, also held the most patents on shooting gallery targets. From the early 1900s until 1969, well after other manufacturers had gone out of business, Mangels’ Coney Island shop turned out cast-iron and sheet-metal targets in the shape of birds and beasts, stars and moons, cowboys and Indians, and soldiers and paratroopers.

The target also evokes memories of riders on Coney Island’s landmark Parachute Jump, which closed in 1964. Originally designed by retired Naval commander James Hale Strong to train military paratroopers in the 1930s, parachute towers were modified into amusement attractions when civilians clamored to ride. Coney Island’s Parachute Jump first wowed visitors at the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair. Afterwards, the ride became the star attraction at Steeplechase Park.

Update: The price realized for the target was $1,020.


Related posts on ATZ…

November 11, 2011: Up for Auction: Rack of Vintage Carnival Knockdown Dolls

September 28, 2011: Rare & Vintage: Auction of French Fairground Art

February 1, 2011: Bring Back the Whip! A Birthday Gift for William F Mangels

February 25, 2010: Happy Belated Birthday to Coney Island’s William F Mangels

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