Coney Island Blog - News

After closing his Mermaid Avenue market in 2009, Jimmy Prince, now 82, remains active and was profiled in New York Magazine’s “My Day.” In the summer, he volunteers at the Coney Island History Project exhibit center, where his longtime customers are delighted to see him again.

“Prince of Mermaid Avenue,” a film about Jimmy Prince by History Project Executive Director Charles Denson, is now available for viewing on his Coneyologist channel on YouTube. The film won Best Documentary at the 2009 Coney Island Film Festival. This 60-minute feature is based on more than 60 hours of raw footage shot over a three-year period.

Jimmy Prince was the last link to what Mermaid Avenue meant to Coney Island in the “good old days.” The Avenue was once a bustling street of family-run mom-and-pop stores. Each block had bakeries, luncheonettes, five-and-dimes, clothing and shoe stores, furniture stores, delis, and butchers. It was a tight-knit community.

The city’s urban renewal plan of the 1960s called for the demolition of the entire West End, including Mermaid Avenue, and few businesses survived the development onslaught. Jimmy Prince transformed his Major Meat Market into the soul of an earlier era, a cordial oasis of tradition and hope, a throwback to what Coney Island was and what many dreamed it could be again one day. Prince worked at Major’s for sixty years, seven days a week, twelve hours a day, and formed a unique relationship with a community that hungered for respect.

When he finally faced retirement,the decsion to close the store dragged on for over a year. He dreaded making a formal announcement about the store’s closing, but his friends could sense it was coming. His loyal customers expressed their love for him and their fear for a future without him. This film documents Jimmy’s decision to retire and the painful process of leaving the Coney Island community that he loved and supported for so many years.

Jimmy Prince Coney Island History Project

Jimmy Prince poses for photo with visitors from Spain on a recent Coney Island History Project Walking Tour. The Prince of Mermaid Avenue, who had just come from a walk to and from Sea Gate and a bite to eat at Tom's, stopped to regale the group with Coney Island stories

Terminla Hotel Sign Coney Island

Coney Island History Project volunteer Daniel Ioannou carrying the Terminal Hotel sign which was rescued just before the building's demolition. January 4, 2015. Photo © Charles Denson

Many people have expressed their dismay over the tragic loss of the historic Terminal Hotel, a beautiful building located on one of Coney Island's busiest intersections. We're happy to report the Coney Island History Project was able to salvage the Terminal Hotel's sign thanks to a coordinated effort by CIHP volunteers Daniel Ioannou and Keith Suber, and CIHP director Charles Denson. After remaining in close contact with the building's owner and the demolition contractor, we were able to retrieve the sign shortly after the fire department completed their investigation.

The Terminal Hotel site has now been cleared and the sign exists as the last remnant of the historic structure that was gutted in a spectacular multi-alarm fire on December 18th. It joins the Coney Island History Project's collection of signage from Astroland, the Playland Arcade, Steeplechase and other vanished places in Coney Island.

The one-hundred-and-ten-year-old Terminal Hotel on the corner of Mermaid and Stillwell Avenues operated as a hotel until the 1970s. The upper floors were abandoned and boarded up after it closed. A series of restaurants occupied the first floor over the years, and the new Food Center and Turkish Restaurant that recently opened on the ground floor after Hurricane Sandy were part of a much needed revival of the area and will be missed.

Terminal Hotel Coney Island

Demolished Terminal Hotel building on Mermaid and Stillwell Avenues, Coney Island. January 6, 2015. Photo © Charles Denson

posted Jan 6th, 2015 in News and tagged with Coney Island History Project, demolition, fire,...
CIHP_HolidayCard2014

Happy Holidays from the Coney Island History Project!

It's going to be an historic New Year's Eve in Coney Island as the 8,000 LED lights of the landmark Parachute Jump ring in the New Year, followed by the first fireworks show of 2015. This free, family-friendly event marks the beginning of a new tradition and is sponsored by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, NYC Council Member Mark Treyger, and the Alliance for Coney Island.

The Coney Island History Project exhibition center will open for the season on Coney's Opening Day, which is Palm Sunday, March 29, 2015. In the meantime, we continue to offer weekend walking tours that include a private visit to the History Project's exhibit center. During the winter, the 1-1/2 tours are offered Saturdays and Sundays at 1pm by advance reservation only. Visit our online reservation site to purchase tickets for the year-round walking tours or email events@coneyislandhistory.org for info on booking a group or school visit.

During this busy holiday season, please take a moment to sign Council Members Mark Treyger and Chaim Deutsch's public petition calling on the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission to designate the historic Riegelmann Boardwalk as an official Scenic Landmark. Currently, there are a total of nine Scenic Landmarks in New York City, including Prospect Park, Eastern Parkway and Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn.

"For nearly a century, Coney Island's wooden boardwalk has provided the public with a rustic observation platform, a cool, soft, raised promenade that captures ocean breezes and affords a respite from New York City's hard concrete jungle. Much like the unfortunate destruction of Penn Station before it could be landmarked, the 'concrete solution' to the Boardwalk's maintenance problems is shortsighted and ill advised. This historic structure must be protected and preserved," said Charles Denson, director of the Coney Island History Project and author of Coney Island: Lost and Found.

posted Dec 24th, 2014 in Events and tagged with Boardwalk, Coney Island, Happy Holidays,...
Terminal Hotel 1974 Photo Copyright Charles Denson

Photo by Charles Denson, 1974

The one-hundred-and-ten-year-old Terminal Hotel on the corner of Mermaid and Stillwell Avenues that burned on December 18 operated as a hotel until the 1970s. The upper floors were abandoned and boarded up after it closed. A series of restaurants occupied the first floor over the years, and the new Food Center and Turkish Restaurant that recently opened on the ground floor after Hurricane Sandy were part of a much needed revival of the area and will be missed. The fire has dealt a serious blow to one of Coney's busiest corners.

Photo by mrwdib via Instagram

Photo by mrwdib via Instagram

posted Dec 19th, 2014 in News and tagged with 1904, Coney Island, fire,...

"Coney Island Creek: An Uncertain Future," a film by Charles Denson, was recently screened at Coney Island Library and is now up on Denson's Coneyologist channel on YouTube. Featuring interviews with stakeholders including local residents, ecologists, anglers, birders, divers, park volunteers, teachers, and the Brooklyn Parks Commissioner. The 18 minute video is part of a longer documentary film project currently underway.

"I grew up near Coney Island Creek and began photographing it in the 60's when the waterway was at its lowest point, polluted and neglected, but I always knew there was something special about the creek and that it would survive," Denson says in the film's introduction. Today, the future of Coney Island Creek is uncertain. Will it be an asset or a liability? The city is currently funding a feasibility study to decide whether to dam up the creek by building a tidal barrier with culverts, a move that would most likely turn the waterway into a toxic cesspool and do little to prevent flooding. Will Coney Island Creek become a restored wetland that prevents flooding or will it become a hazard to the community? Informed community input is vital.

posted Nov 25th, 2014 in Film and tagged with Charles Denson, Coney Island Creek, creek,...
Coney Island Veteran's Day photo by Charles Denson

Coney Island Vets on Veteran's Day: Stan Fox, Vietnam 1966-67, Qui Nhon. Bobby Tropper, Vietnam 1967-69, Tay-Nihn. Fox, who volunteers with the Coney Island History Project, operated the Playland penny arcades in Coney Island from the 1940s through the 1980s. Tropper is a game operator on Jones Walk. Photo © Charles Denson.

posted Nov 11th, 2014 in News and tagged with Bobby Tropper, Charles Denson, Coney Island,...
RIP Stewart Stewie Glass

RIP Stewart "Stewie" Glass, Coney Island game operator for the past 50+ years. He passed away after suffering a heart attack. For the past two seasons, Stewie ran a balloon game on the Bowery. The basketball game in Charles Denson's 2007 portrait was in the Grashorn Building on Surf. A graveside service will be held at Mount Lebanon Cemetery, Iselin, New Jersey, on Thursday at 1:00pm.

posted Oct 30th, 2014 in News and tagged with Coney Island, Game operator, In Memoriam,...
NCA BRass Ring Award

At the National Carousel Association's 2014 convention and technical conference in New York City, the Coney Island History Project was honored with their Brass Ring Award for Service. The award was presented "for outstanding efforts in Archiving, Recording and Preserving the History of the Pioneers and Contemporaries of the Amusement Industry in Coney Island, New York."

"This award is a great honor," wrote Coney Island History Project director Charles Denson in a thank-you letter to National Carousel Association president Bette Largent. "When we founded the History Project a decade ago, Carol Albert and I set out to preserve in living memory the achievements and contributions of the many unsung heroes of Coney Island and the NCA award is an encouraging validation of our mission."

The Coney Island History Project's Hall of Fame has honored such Coney Island amusement industry icons as Steeplechase Park founder George C. Tilyou, carousel carver Marcus C. Illions, and ride inventor and amusement manufacturer William F. Mangels. Among the voices in our Oral History Archive are the late Jimmy McCullough, whose family operated numerous small amusement parks and carousels in Coney Island, including the B&B Carousell; band organ expert Max Nowicki; and Fabricon Carousel Factory founder Marvin Sylvor.

posted Oct 14th, 2014 in News and tagged with amusement industry, award, Brass Ring Award,...
Coney Island Creek

SAVE THE DATE October 29, 2014, the second anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, for "Coney Island Creek After Sandy: Planning for the Future." Will the Creek be a community asset or a liability? A talk and film presentation by Charles Denson, director of the Coney Island History Project, will be held at the Coney Island Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library at 6pm. The Wednesday evening event is free and open to the public. The Coney Island Library is located at 1901 Mermaid Avenue at the corner of West 19th Street.

Charles Denson, a Coney Island native, has been documenting the Creek for over 40 years and is working on a book and film about the waterway. He has given numerous lectures and presentations concerning the Creek at venues that include the New York Aquarium, The Coney Island Library, Kingsborough College, Brooklyn College, and at various locations in the Coney Island community. In 2013 Denson received the Herman Melville Award from the New York State Marine Education Association for his contributions to marine education through his work.

The Coney Island History Project would also like to introduce our new sister Twitter account @ConeyCreek. Please follow it in addition to @ConeyHistory for history, news and event info for Coney Island Creek.

posted Oct 6th, 2014 in Events and tagged with Charles Denson, Coney Island, Coney Island Creek,...

Coney Island History Project Walking Tour led by Amanda Deutch

The Coney Island History Project's exhibit center season is from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day, but we continue to offer walking tours and group visits to our exhibit center year-round. Our unique tours are based on History Project Director Charles Denson's award-winning book "Coney Island: Lost and Found," the interviews from CIHP's Oral History Archive, and other primary sources. Through the end of October, Coney Island History Project Walking Tours are offered on Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 pm by advance reservation only. Beginning in November tours start an hour earlier, at 1pm, and are also by advance reservation. Tickets are $20. The 1-1/2 hour tour is wheelchair accessible.

All tours are weather permitting. If a tour is cancelled due to the weather forecast, ticket orders will be refunded. Advance purchase of tickets via our online reservation site is required for the fall and winter series. If you have a question or you would like to schedule a private tour or group visit, please email events@coneyislandhistory.org

Coney Island History Project Group Visit

The History Project's Coneyologist Club hosts visits by children from the community like this group from Coney Island Houses

posted Sep 26th, 2014 in Events and tagged with Brooklyn, Coney Island, Coney Island History Project,...