Coney Island Blog - News


Jimmy Prince, Coney Island Photo ©  by Charles Denson 2009

Jimmy Prince was the kindest man in the world and the brightest light in Coney Island, a man who personified compassion, love and respect. There was no one else like him. He was born in 1932, the same year that Major Market opened on Mermaid Avenue and he began working at the market in June 1949 at the age of 18. Eventually he owned the store, and kept it open seven days a week, twelve hours a day until 2009. Jimmy became "Mr. Major," and his store became the heart of Coney Island, a refuge during hard times, where people came to find warmth and solace and nourishment. He was always positive and believed that Coney Island would survive.

Major Market became an anchor for Coney Island and an oasis for the community. Many generations grew up visiting “Mr. Major,” and would later bring their children to meet him and continue the tradition through the decades. Jimmy provided the same quality prime meat and produce found in New York’s finest restaurants. He wanted his Coney Island customers to have the best, even if it meant sacrificing and operating at a loss in the later years. He gave respect and received love in return.

In 2007, Jimmy confided that he was contemplating retirement and we began a two-year project to document his last days on Mermaid Avenue. The project became the 2009 feature documentary, "The Prince of Mermaid Avenue."  After closing the store that he’d operated for 60 years, Jimmy volunteered on weekends at the Coney Island History Project. Our Exhibit Center provided a transition for him as he could spend time with old friends and customers who stopped by to see him. His smile and delightful personality enchanted visitors to Coney Island who met him for the first time at the History Project."Mr. Major's" delightful, upbeat personality always made you feel at home. His passions included collecting baseball cards and postage stamps, and a visit to his home always included a trip to his basement “museum of baseball” where he showed photos of the Brooklyn Dodgers he'd taken at Ebbets Field. He always hoped that the Postal Service would issue a Coney Island stamp and we began lobbying for it. 

 Jimmy's bright light has not gone out, it will shine brightly forever in the hearts of all who knew him. He was a wonderful friend.

– Charles Denson

Jimmy Prince, Coney Island Photo © by Charles Denson 2009

Jimmy Prince and Charles Denson at Major Market, 2003

posted May 25th, 2021 in By Charles Denson and tagged with

Coney Island Stories Coney Island History Project

On Memorial Day Weekend, lifeguards will once again be perched in their towers and New York City will celebrate the reopening of Coney Island's beach for swimming. Our new podcast episode "Beach Days" has dropped! Listen and subscribe to Coney Island Stories on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Episode 8 shares stories of days at the beach from the 1920s through the 1990s taken from the Coney Island History Project's Oral History Archive.

The stories include childhood memories of family outings, a hidden playground under the boardwalk, a lava hot spot on the sand, the knish man, teenage memories of daring swimsuits, summer jobs renting beach chairs and umbrellas, and working as a lifeguard. Memories span the 1920s, when beach goers were fined as much $5 each - the equivalent of $75 today - for walking on the boardwalk in bathing suits, to the 1990s, when “under the boardwalk” was filled in with sand and a way of life changed forever.

The oral histories in the podcast are with Joseph Albanese, Connie Scacciaferro, Richard Termini, Ron Vernon, Steve Larkin, and Crystal Isley. The interviews were conducted from 2009 to 2019 by Charles Denson, Amanda Deutch, Samira Tazari, and Tricia Vita. This episode was produced by Charles Denson, Ali Lemer and Tricia Vita.

Listen to previous episodes about Coney Island's legendary roller coasters and bathhouses, Mermaid Avenue, and family-owned restaurants and other businesses via your fave podcast app or the podcast page on the Coney Island History Project's website.

Photo credits: Top right, bottom left: Courtesy of Connie Scacciaferro. Bottom right: Coney Island History Project Collection.

posted May 24th, 2021 in Events and tagged with podcast, oral history, history,...

Coney Island Creek

Last Saturday the Coney Island History project joined sponsors City Parks Foundation, NYSMEA and Partnerships for Parks for the sixth annual It’s My Estuary Day on the Kaiser Park shoreline. We tabled with our partners to present the history and ecology of Coney Island natural ecosystems. Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse and the Kayak Foundation brought two dozen kayaks and invited local children and adults to learn to kayak and then paddle over to visit the yellow submarine on Coney Island Creek. It was an amazing day but was bittersweet because it could be the final time they can launch at Kaiser Park, where the city plans to build a massive ferry dock at Coney Island's only public access point on Coney Island Creek.

posted May 24th, 2021 in Events and tagged with Coney Island Creek, kayaking, It's My Estuary Day

Coney Island Stories Podcast Episode 7 Staying in the Game

Our new episode "Staying in the Game" has dropped! Listen and subscribe to Coney Island Stories on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. 

Episode 7 features the stories of independent game operators, past and present, from the Coney Island History Project Oral History Archive. Among the games that Peter Agrapides, Monica Ghee, Candi Rafael, and Eliot Wofse have operated are Fascination, Balloon Dart, Glass and Dime Pitches, Milk Toss, Basketball, Fish Bowl, High Striker and Water Races. The last of the independent game operators are now concentrated on a small strip of Coney Island’s eclectic Bowery, once the boisterous home of hundreds of unusual games and attractions.

The interviews were conducted by Kaara Baptiste, Charles Denson, Amanda Deutch, and Mark Markov between 2009 and 2019. The podcast is produced by Charles Denson, Ali Lemer and Tricia Vita. Listen to previous episodes about Coney Island's legendary roller coasters and bathhouses, Mermaid Avenue, and family-owned restaurants and other businesses via your fave podcast app or the podcast page on the Coney Island History Project's website.

posted Apr 15th, 2021 in Events and tagged with podcast, oral history, history,...

Coney Island Stories Episode 6 Bathhouses

Our new episode 'A Century of Bathhouses' has dropped! Listen and subscribe to Coney Island Stories on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Episode 6 features stories of Washington Baths, Ravenhall, and Silver's Baths, among others, told by bathhouse owners, workers and patrons recorded for the Coney Island History Project’s oral history archive between 2000 and 2020. Bathhouses were the first businesses in Coney Island. Even before Coney’s first hotel was built in 1829, crude bathhouse shacks were set among the dunes. Before the city built the boardwalk in the 1920s, most of the Coney Island beach was private and bathhouses provided the only access to the beach and provided patrons a summer home away from home. Many had overnight accommodations, restaurants, and swimming pools, and some offered massages and the ever popular nude sunbathing.  They were very sociable places and generations of family and friends from the same neighborhoods patronized the same bath houses for years until the last one, Brighton Beach Baths, was demolished in the early 1990s. Now hardly anyone knows what a bathhouse is. 

posted Mar 15th, 2021 in News and tagged with podcast, oral history, history,...

Alliance for Coney Island Mural project

The Alliance for Coney Island is seeking local and regional artists to paint large-scale murals on storefront gates in Coney! We're excited that the Coney Island History Project's gates are among the 15 locations for the NYC Department of Small Business Services' funded project. Other locations include the games next door to us, Nathan's and Brooklyn Beach Shop on the Boardwalk, the Eldorado Bumper Cars and the Cyclone, and several stores on Mermaid Avenue. For information on submitting a proposal, please visit Deadline: March 31, 2021.

Alliance for Coney island Mural Project




posted Mar 9th, 2021 in News and tagged with Murals, mural project, storefronts,...

Neter Antoine

We’re excited to introduce Neter Antoine, a 2020-2021 CUNY Cultural Corps intern who is our new production assistant. Neter is a visual artist and dancer who is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Therapeutic Recreation at the City University of New York’s Lehman College.

"I am a creative thinker and an active learner from Bed-Stuy (Bedford Stuyvesant), Brooklyn," writes Neter. "My fondest memories of Coney Island involve people; sharing in the fervor of Coney Island's many parts with others is what I cherish most about it. The concept of storytelling from the perspective of a wide variety of people - a sharing of memories - is what drew me to the Coney Island History Project."

The Coney Island History Project has a history of working with interns but due to the pandemic we're working from home and this is our first experience working remotely with an intern. Neter is helping to develop and create new virtual content for 2021, including Zoom events such as reminiscence activities for seniors and virtual tours, online exhibitions, and audio and video promos for social media.

Established by CUNY with New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs and The Rockefeller Foundation in 2016, CUNY Cultural Corps partners with the City’s arts and cultural organizations to provide paid internships for CUNY students as a pipeline to careers in the arts. Thanks to a gift from the Mellon Foundation, CUNY Cultural Corps has been able to expand the number of opportunities for students to gain professional experience in the arts and culture sector.

Legendary Roller Coasters Coney Island History Project

Our new episode on legendary roller coasters has dropped! Listen and subscribe to Coney Island Stories on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Episode 5 of our Coney Island Stories podcast features the stories of a trio of roller coasters built in the Roaring 20’s and named after violent storms: the Thunderbolt, the Tornado and the Cyclone.

While the Cyclone is the only survivor from Coney's golden age, the Coney Island History Project has recorded and preserved memories of people who rode or worked at some of these legendary coasters. A few narrators had the unusual fortune to live beneath one of these thrill rides. The stories of Harold Kramer, Mae Timpano, Don Ferris, Andy Badalamenti, Mindy Gress, and John Hunt, among others, were recorded for the Coney Island History Project Oral History Archive between 2000 and 2020.

posted Feb 9th, 2021 in News and tagged with Coney Island Stories, podcast, roller coasters,...

Black History Month

In celebration of Black History Month, tell us your Coney Island stories! During these days of social distancing, you're invited to share and preserve your memories by recording an oral history via phone, Zoom or Skype.

We record audio interviews with people who live or work - past or present - in Coney Island and adjacent Southern Brooklyn neighborhoods or have a special connection to the place. 

Sign up for an appointment or listen to some of the more than 375 interviews in our online archive. Among the oral histories we will be sharing during Black History Month are David Head, former chairman of the Black History Committee for TWU Local 100, who tells the story of African-American inventor Granville T. Woods, and historian Eric K. Washington, who rediscovered African American artist E.J. Perry, a renowned silhouette cutter at Coney Island's Luna Park.

posted Feb 1st, 2021 in News and tagged with Black History Month, oral history, Coney Island,...

Coney Island Stories Podcast

Our new podcast produced from oral histories in the Coney Island History Project's archive, which previewed on our website, has been retitled Coney Island Stories and is now available wherever you get your podcasts. Download and subscribe on your favorite podcast app:

Apple Podcasts:
Google Podcasts:

Here are reviews from some of our first listeners!

"I loved the optimism, ambition and grit that comes through in their voices and stories."
"You get a real sense of the incredible history of Coney Island through stories and memories shared by a variety of guests. I was lucky enough to be born and raised in Brooklyn. The podcasts bring back great memories and introduce me to history in the making."
"You can peek into a part of Coney Island not visible by just visiting. Coney was (is) such a unique place - and the podcast shares and saves memories that would be otherwise lost."
"It’s a true slice of Coney life that is quickly disappearing. It helps to remind those of us who were around then that it was a glorious place to visit and imagine what could be!"

Six new episodes will debut in the coming months. Here's the trailer for the first four episodes...

posted Dec 28th, 2020 in Events and tagged with podcast, Coney Island, Coney Island Stories,...