Coney Island Stories Podcast Episode 8

"Growing Up in the 2000s," the new episode of Coney Island Stories, has dropped. Listen and subscribe via your podcast app or the podcast page on our website.

Season Two’s theme is “Growing Up in Coney Island” through the decades, from the 1930s to the 21st century. In Episode Eight, the final episode of this season, we’re sharing the stories of narrators who grew up in Coney Island or came here from nearby neighborhoods, in the first decade of the 2000s.

The new millennium began with the opening of a thirty million dollar ballpark for a Mets farm team on the site of Steeplechase Park. A contest was held to name the new team and the Brooklyn Cyclones was the winning name. Whenever the Cyclones won a home game, Astroland’s Cyclone roller coaster enjoyed a surge of business.

Soon after Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office in 2002, he set his sights on Coney Island. He envisioned world-class attractions and hotels surrounded by high-rise residential development on vacant amusement land. The objective was to make Coney Island into a year-round recreational oceanfront destination by rezoning it. The ensuing zoning battle kept Coney in the headlines for the next six years, as speculators bought and sold land, and preservationists and stakeholders offered alternative visions for the future of the “People’s Playground.”

The oral histories in Episode Seven are with Ahmed Hussain, Abby Jordan, Bonnie Kong, Candi Rafael, and Eric Sanchez. The interviews were conducted by Kaara Baptiste, Allison Corbett, Amanda Deutch, Samira Tazari, and Lauren Vespoli between 2015 and 2022. This episode was produced by Charles Denson, Ali Lemer and Tricia Vita. Music by Blue Dot Sessions.

This program is sponsored in part by an Action Grant from Humanities New York with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

posted Oct 7th, 2022 in Events and tagged with Coney Island, Coney Island Stories, oral history,...

Wonder Wheel Patent 1920
Happy 102nd Patent-versary to Deno's Wonder Wheel! Filed in January, Charles Hermann's patent for his invention, which he said combined the thrills of a Ferris wheel with a gravity railway or roller coaster, was approved on September 28, 1920. An earlier design for what would one day become the Wonder Wheel was patented in 1915, writes Coney Island History Project director Charles Denson in his book Coney Island's Wonder Wheel Park.

Deno's Wonder Wheel Park is open Saturdays, Sundays, and school holidays in September and October. The History Project's outdoor exhibitions at Deno's are on display in the lower park adjacent to the Wheel during park hours.
 

posted Sep 27th, 2022 in History and tagged with Wonder Wheel, Deno's Wonder Wheel, Coney Island,...

Jeff Brooks

Among the recent additions to the Coney Island History Project's oral history archive are interviews with Jeff Brooks and Monica Ghee, who have worked in Coney Island for over 50 years and still have games on the Bowery; and Fred Stern, a bus driver for 35 years on the B36 route.

In his oral history, Jeff Brooks tells the story of Coney Island in the 1970s, when it was reminiscent of the Wild West and owners could rent a space and create whatever sort of attraction they wanted, often with mixed results. The Tornado Roller Coaster had a long row of amusement spaces below the ride, along Stillwell Avenue and the Bowery, and Jeff operated three different spook house dark rides at this location. Most surprising is his story about how much money one of his dark rides made during the coldest days of winter when visitors would come down on weekends to visit a snow covered Coney Island.

Jeff Brooks and Monica Ghee

In a second interview, Jeff Brooks and Monica Ghee tell an amazing tale of compassion and friendship that goes beyond anything imaginable. Business partners for 25 years with popular family games that include archery, bowling, and a high-striker, they now operate three game concessions on the Bowery at Jones Walk. Last year, when Jeff was given less than a year to live, Monica donated a kidney and saved his life. Monica Ghee's 2019 oral history is also available for listening in our online archive.

Fred Stern

Born in 1953, Fred Stern recalls growing up on West 32nd Street in Coney Island, in a house next to Sam's Knishes. In 1964, his family moved to neighboring Bath Beach, where he still lives today. Stern shares memories of being a bus driver on the B36 route from Sea Gate to Nostrand Avenue and Avenue U, and the shuttle bus inside Sea Gate. He was a bus driver for the MTA from 1978 until he retired in August of 2012. "It was like a family," he says of the passengers -- the "morning people" and "evening people" -- he picked up every day. 

More than 430 oral histories are available for listening in the Coney Island History Project’s multilingual online archive. Please listen, share, and if you or someone you know would like to record a story via phone or Zoom, sign up here. We record oral histories in English, Chinese, Russian, Spanish and other languages with people who have lived or worked in Coney Island and nearby neighborhoods or have a special connection to these places.

Photo Credits: Charles Denson, Fred Stern

NY Coastal Resiliency Plan Coney Island
The New York Harbor Coastal Resiliency Plan by the Army Corps of Engineers went live on their website on September 26, and it's a shocker. The proposed $52 billion plan for New York and parts of New Jersey will have extreme consequences for Coney Island and the surrounding shorefront communities and gives no guarantees that any of the projects will work. 

At first glance the plan seems to favor mechanical flood control rather than proven natural means such as raised living shorelines and restored marshes. There are no details provided about the mechanical "storm surge gate" on Coney Island Creek, the "elevated promenade" on the Coney Island beach, and the "extra large floodwall" at Coney Island Creek Park and Sea Gate. It appears from the report that the Boardwalk would have to be raised five feet above its current height. 

If many of the measures proposed in this plan are implemented, they could result in an environmental nightmare for local waterways, provide only marginal protection, and exacerbate flooding.
Will Coney Island be surrounded by towering floodwalls, massive levees, and mechanical floodgates? (The plan is searchable for Coney Island and maps appear on pages 139 and 202.) Make your comments known before the January 6, 2023 deadline. The plan will be finalized in two years, and construction begins in 2030. The only thing for sure is that Coney Island will never be the same. -- Charles Denson

The report can be viewed and downloaded at:
nynjharbor.tribstudy@usace.army.mil Maps: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New York District">https://www.nan.usace.army.mil/Portals/37/NYNJHATS%20Draft%20Integrated%20Feasibility%20Report%20Tier%201%20EIS.pdf

Comments can be submitted to: 
Mr. Bryce W. Wisemiller
Project Manager, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
nynjharbor.tribstudy@usace.army.mil 

Maps: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New York District 

NY Coastal Resiliency Plan Coney Island
 

Coney Island Stories Podcast

"Growing Up in the 1990s," the new episode of Coney Island Stories, has dropped. Listen and subscribe via your podcast app or the podcast page on our website.

Season Two’s theme is “Growing Up in Coney Island” through the decades, from the 1930s to the 21st century. In Episode Seven, narrators who grew up here in the 1990s share stories of loss and change. They remember living in Gravesend Houses and Sea Rise apartments as well as on West 5th, West 8th and West 19th Streets. The Boardwalk, the Beach, Astroland, the Cyclone Roller Coaster and the Wonder Wheel were their playgrounds.

The decade began with the Cyclone winning a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. The same year, a fire gutted the wooden house under Coney’s other surviving roller coaster from the 1920s, the still standing but nonoperational Thunderbolt. The house was known to film lovers as Woody Allen’s boyhood home in the movie Annie Hall, but it was originally built as the Kensington Hotel in the late 1800s. It was the last remaining structure from Coney’s original waterfront, since the shoreline at that time was much farther inland than it is now. The 1925 coaster was caught between an owner who neglected it, and City officials who considered it an eyesore. Some viewed the Thunderbolt as a symbol of Coney’s decline, but to many, it served as a monument to survival.

The oral histories in Episode Seven are with Tiana Camacho, Emmanuel Elpenord, Theresa Giovinni, Allen James, and Marina Rubin. The interviews were conducted by Amanda Deutch, Katya Kumkova, Ali Lemer, Samira Tazari, and Tricia Vita between 2014 and 2020. This episode was produced by Charles Denson, Ali Lemer and Tricia Vita. Music by Blue Dot Sessions.

This program is sponsored in part by an Action Grant from Humanities New York with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

posted Sep 9th, 2022 in News and tagged with Coney Island, Coney Island History Project, podcast,...

We're hiring a Community Engagement Coordinator!

The Coney Island History Project (CIHP) is seeking a part-time community engagement coordinator to do outreach and tabling events to support our community based programs. The CIHP’s multilingual online oral history archive features over 400 audio interviews with people who grew up, live, or work in Coney Island and adjacent neighborhoods in Southern Brooklyn, or have a special connection to these places.

The coordinator will recruit and qualify potential narrators interested in recording oral histories and participating in group reminiscence events, both remotely and in person. The coordinator will receive orientation and professional development training to be able to represent the CIHP knowledgeably and effectively. While learning about oral history and our oral history archive, the coordinator will also receive paid training to learn how to conduct, record, edit, and archive oral history interviews. 

The ideal candidate is a New York City resident with an interest in Coney Island and its history and culture. Preference will be given to residents of Coney Island and the NYCHA housing projects in the community, or those who have a familiarity with Coney Island and NYCHA housing from living or working there in the past. College students as well as retirees are encouraged to apply.

The job is anticipated to start in October and will be a hybrid position working remotely from home and in-person in the community. This is a grant funded position of 10-12 hours per week @ $20 per hour for a total of 250 hours over 20-25 weeks. After successfully completing the term of the grant, the community engagement coordinator will have the opportunity to join our roster of freelance oral history interviewers @$25.00 per hour.

-Excellent communication and interpersonal skills and ability to establish positive relationships with community residents

-Ability to work independently as well as collaboratively with oral history interviewers, and executive and administrative directors

-Recruit and schedule community residents to record oral history interviews through online and phone outreach and at in-person community events

-Keep a record of potential oral history narrators and re-contact those who expressed interest in recording an interview

-Host table and network at local events to renew and strengthen existing relationships in the community and establish new relationships

-Increase visibility and word-of-mouth and participation for CIHP and our programming in the community

-Flexibility to work evenings or weekends as needed to attend community events

-Professional or volunteer experience in community outreach

-Interest in learning how to conduct, record, edit and archive oral history interviews 

Details at a Glance

TIME COMMITMENT: Part Time Schedule

JOB TYPE: Temporary. This is a grant funded hybrid position of 10-12 hours per week @ $20 per hour for a total of 250 hours over 20-25 weeks.

START DATE: October 12, 2022

APPLICATION DEADLINE: October 6, 2022

EDUCATION: High School Diploma Required

Level of Language Proficiency: Proficient in English. Fluency in another language a plus.

Location: Work must be performed in or near Brooklyn, NY

Please apply via our ad on Idealist where you can upload your resume, cover letter, and writing sample (three-paragraphs).

posted Aug 30th, 2022 in News and tagged with job alert, job, part-time job,...

Coney Island History Project

The Coney Island History Project’s free exhibition center will be open for Labor Day Weekend, including Monday, from 1 – 7 PM, for our last weekend of the summer season. Stop by and take a selfie with Cy, the Spook-A-Rama Cyclops, and our original Steeplechase Horse. Also on view is a special exhibition of photography by Barbara Rosenberg and Coney Island’s oldest surviving artifact, the 1823 Toll House sign. It dates back to the days when the toll for a horse and rider to “the Island” was five cents.

After Labor Day, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and Luna Park remain open weekends and school holidays through the end of October. The History Project's outdoor exhibitions at Deno's are on display in the lower park adjacent to the Wheel during park hours.

A new permanent exhibit of history panels celebrating the 60th anniversary of Astroland is in front of the Astroland Rocket, directly across from the bumper cars. You can also see an exhibit of colorful history banners telling the remarkable story of the Wonder Wheel and the family that operates Deno's Wonder Wheel Park. The banners are located on the Wheel's walkway adjacent to the History Project, as well as below Deno's Phoenix Roller Coaster on West 12th Street. The exhibits are free and on view through October 30 during park hours. Hours of operation are subject to change depending on weather conditions.

Stay tuned for announcements of free events sponsored by the Coney Island History Project in September and October!

Astroland Rocket
 

MANY NYSCA Capacity Building Grant

We’re pleased to announce the Coney Island History Project has been awarded a grant for capacity building from the Museum Association of New York (MANY) in partnership with the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA). Capacity building grants up to and including $5,000 were awarded to 102 grantees in New York State.

The Coney Island History Project is using the funding to hire a part-time community engagement coordinator to do outreach to support our community based programming. The coordinator will recruit and qualify potential narrators interested in recording oral histories and participating in group reminiscence events, both remotely and in person. See our ad on Idealist.com for more details and to apply for the job.

"We are thrilled and grateful for this opportunity to expand our outreach into the Coney Island community," said History Project Executive Director Charles Denson, "especially after two difficult years caused by the pandemic."

“The arts and culture sector is facing a multi-year recovery process after two years of unimaginable challenges,” said Mara Manus, Executive Director, NYSCA. “We are grateful to MANY for their stewardship of this opportunity that will ensure New York State museums continue to grow and thrive. We send our congratulations to all grantees on their awards.”

“We thank NYSCA for this partnership and this opportunity to rapidly distribute much-needed funding to New York’s museums,” said Erika Sanger, Executive Director, MANY.

Partnership Grants for Capacity Building are made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.

Salman Rushdie at the Coney Island History Project

Salman Rushdie with his son and Suketu's sons at the Coney Island History Project, 2009

We are saddened by the horrific attack on author Salman Rushdie and wish him a speedy recovery. Rushdie is a big fan of Coney Island. When he visited in 2009 with CIHP board member Suketu Mehta, he spent the morning at the History Project before riding the Cyclone, strolling the Boardwalk, and having a beer at Ruby's Bar. It was a memorable visit. The attack on Rushdie is an attack on freedom of expression for all writers. We hope to see more of his insightful books, essays, and opinions in the future.

 

posted Aug 16th, 2022 in By Charles Denson and tagged with

Coney Island Stories Season 2 Episode 6

"Growing Up in the 1980s," the new episode of Coney Island Stories, has dropped. Listen and subscribe via your podcast app or the podcast page on our website.

Season Two’s theme is “Growing Up in Coney Island” through the decades, from the 1930s to the 21st century. In Episode Six, narrators who grew up here in the 1980s, or grew up coming to Coney Island from nearby neighborhoods, share their stories. They remember living in Gravesend Houses and O’Dwyer Gardens, high-rises overseen by the New York City Housing Authority, as well as apartments on West 19th Street and in Brightwater Towers.  Astroland Park, Fabers Fascination Arcade, and Ruby’s Bar and Grill were their playgrounds.

Coney Island during the 1980s is best symbolized by Greek immigrant Denos Vourderis’s purchase of the 1920 Wonder Wheel, the amusement area’s oldest continuously operating ride and the founding of Deno's Wonder Wheel Park. Another ray of hope in 1980’s Coney Island was the Astella Development Corporation’s plan to build low-rise attached homes on vacant lots slated for high-rise projects that were abandoned when the city went broke in the 1970s. Astella developed or renovated nearly one thousand single-family, owner-occupied homes on city-owned land in the 1980s.

The oral histories in Episode Six are with Alito Hernandez, Shavon Meyers, Zohra Saed, Eric Safyan, and Jeffrey L. Wilson. The interviews were conducted by Kaara Baptiste, Charles Denson, Leila Goldstein, and Tricia Vita between 2017 and 2021. This episode was produced by Charles Denson, Ali Lemer and Tricia Vita. Music by Blue Dot Sessions.

This program is sponsored in part by an Action Grant from Humanities New York with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

posted Aug 8th, 2022 in Events and tagged with Coney Island, Coney Island History Project, podcast,...