Coney Island Blog - Video Posts

"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 Dune

Remember the dunes that were created by the US Army Corps of Engineers on West 15th Street after Sandy? "Coney Island Dune: Leaving Sandy Behind" by Coney Island History Project director Charles Denson is a lyrical look at the temporary sand dunes. The sand was cleaned and then returned to the beach by the Parks Department after having been collected from the streets where it had been swept by the storm. You can see the film on Denson's Coneyologist channel on YouTube. Also on view are "Requiem for the Astrotower," "Woody Guthrie's 100th Birthday, Celebrated at Coney Island" and "Secrets of the Universe," a short that premiered at the 2010 Coney Island Film Festival.

posted Sep 24th, 2013 in Film and tagged with beach, Charles Denson, Coney Island,...

Astrotower_Charles Denson

Coney Island’s Astrotower was much more than an amusement ride. It served as a symbol of hope. To those of us living in Coney Island in the early 1960s, the tower represented the future of Coney Island, a sign that the neighborhood would survive the city’s urban renewal schemes.

At that time, most of the neighborhood was slated for demolition, and former amusement sites were being converted to housing. Venerable Steeplechase Park closed down the same year that the tower went up. The Albert family took a huge personal risk when they built Astroland and the Astrotower. When the tower was completed in 1964, Coney Island had a bright new landmark proclaiming that the amusement zone would not be wiped away.

The tower was never a thrill ride. It provided an overview, an aerial perspective on Coney Island. The Astrotower was not an ornate or baroque tower like the ones at Dreamland and the old Luna. It was a utilitarian structure, much like Coney’s first tall attraction, the 300-foot Iron Tower, built in the 1870s to resemble a giant oil rig. The Astrotower had idiosyncrasies: it liked to sing and dance, to sway in the wind as the cables hummed a mournful tune. This proved to be its undoing.

Back in the 1970s, when the iconic Parachute Jump was a rusting abandoned relic, there were constant calls for its demolition. But it survived its critics and is now restored as the Eiffel Tower of Brooklyn. The Astrotower would not be so lucky.

When the Coney Island History Project exhibit center opened below the Cyclone in 2007, I got to know the Astrotower’s longtime caretaker, Frank Pugliesi. On Sunday mornings I’d accompany him to the top while he did the weekly maintenance. Frank was an elevator mechanic, and he kept the tower in top shape. The motor room atop the tower looked like new, always clean and freshly painted in bright colors.

Toward the end, some saw the Astrotower as a relic, a leftover that did not belong in the “new” Coney Island. But the truth is that there might not have been a Coney Island for the latest regime to “rescue” if not for the enormous personal investment made by the Albert family in the early 1960s. The tower was a lasting reminder of the optimism that investment represented.

There was a recent plan to decorate the tower with pinwheels and lights, in sync with the new lighting on the Parachute Jump. It would have been beautifully repurposed. But it was not to be, and the Astrotower joins Coney’s towers of the past, a page in history. The tower went out in a dramatic fashion on the Fourth of July weekend 2013 in a fog of hysteria, false rumors, and conflicting reports. It was condemned and cut into pieces and unceremoniously hauled off to a junkyard. Was Hurricane Sandy to blame, or the removal of the observation car and counterweights that always kept it balanced? Or was the tower just trying to escape, its mission accomplished?

The Astrotower cannot be replaced, but another symbol of optimism is waiting in the wings. Now is the time to bring back the Astroland Rocket! --- Charles Denson

posted Jul 25th, 2013 in News and tagged with Albert family, Astroland, Astrotower,...

The Coney Island History Project, destroyed by Superstorm Sandy, reopens on March 24th to record the oral histories of the storm!

posted Mar 18th, 2013 in News and tagged with
posted Jul 31st, 2011 in News and tagged with


Coney Island and Astroland tells the story of Coney Island's evolution by exploring its changing architectural streetscape through never before seen images from the Astroland Archive, the Coney Island History Project Archive, and his personal collection. The book is part of Arcadia's Images of America series and was released on June 13.


Signed copies of Coney Island and Astroland (128 pages, $21.99) will be available for purchase at the Coney Island History Project exhibition center and via our website. On Saturday, June 25, Charles Denson will be at the Coney Island History Project for a book signing event. The event is scheduled for 2 - 5 pm at our exhibition center at 3059 West 12th Street, just off the Boardwalk.

posted Jun 16th, 2011 in News and tagged with