Coney Island History Project

The Coney Island History Project is located on West 12th Street at the entrance to Deno's Wonder Wheel Park. Photo: Jim McDonnell

You're invited to visit the Coney Island History Project's exhibition center on Coney's traditional Opening Day, Palm Sunday, March 25, 2018. View historic artifacts, photographs, maps, ephemera and films of Coney Island's colorful past. Take a free souvenir photo with the iconic Cyclops head from Deno's Spook-A-Rama dark ride and an original Steeplechase horse from the legendary ride that gave Steeplechase Park its name. Among the treasures on display is Coney Island's oldest surviving artifact: The 1823 wooden Toll House Sign dates back to the days when the toll for a horse and rider to go over Coney Island Creek to "the island" was 5 cents!

This Sunday only, as a special added attraction, visitors are invited to look through an antique arcade machine called a Cail-O-Scope and experience stereoview 3-D images of early 1900's Coney Island. The machine is set for 25 cents. Special thanks to arcade restorer Bob Yorburg, who is bringing this treasure filled with rare, unusual Coney Island images from his collection to the History Project for opening day festivities. The Coney Island History Project will be open 1:00PM-6:00PM. Admission is free of charge.

2018 marks the 14th anniversary of the Coney Island History Project and our seventh season at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park. Since our inception in 2004 with a portable recording booth on the Boardwalk, followed by the opening of the Coney Island Hall of Fame in 2005, and the inaugural season of our exhibition center under the Cyclone at Astroland Park in 2007 and moving to Deno's Wonder Wheel Park in 2011, we have proudly offered "Free Admission for One and All!" at our exhibits and special events.

Opening Day festivities start at 10:45AM on the Boardwalk with the 34th Annual Blessing of the Rides at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park. The late Pastor Debbe Santiago of Coney Island's Salt and Sea Mission originated the event with Denos D. Vourderis, who invited children from the Mission to enjoy free rides and Easter baskets, a tradition that continues today. 

Deacon Toyin Fakumoju of the Mission will lead the Blessing this year and the NYC Fire Department Ceremonial Unit will present the colors and sing the National Anthem. A ribbon cutting ceremony hosted by park owners Dennis and Steve Vourderis will be followed by free rides on the Wonder Wheel for the first 98 guests in celebration of the Wheel's 98th year.  

At Luna Park, the first 100 on line at the Cyclone roller coaster will ride the roller coaster for free and egg cream samples will be given out. Coney Island's 1920 Wonder Wheel and the 1927 Cyclone are official New York City landmarks.

The Palm Sunday opener was conceived in 1956 by Milton Berger as a publicity campaign for his newest client, the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce, to establish “an early-season and official opening consciousness in the public’s mind.” 

Located on West 12th Street at the entrance to Deno's Wonder Wheel, just a few steps off the Boardwalk, the Coney Island History Project is open free of charge on weekends and holidays from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day from 1:00-7:00PM. We will also be open on Easter Sunday, April 1st, from 1:00-6:00PM. The Coney Island History Project is open year round for private group visits and our weekend walking tours as well as by appointment to record interviews with people who have memories of Coney Island for our Oral History Archive.

posted Mar 13th, 2018 in News and tagged with Coney Island, Opening Day, Blessing of the Rides,...

Coney Island History Project Oral History Archive

Among the additions to the Coney Island History Project's online Oral History Archive are the following interviews recorded by Amanda Deutch, Charles Denson, Kaara Baptiste, Mark Markov, Samira Tazari, and Xiaoyan Li. Please listen, share, and if you or someone you know would like to record a story, sign up here. Interviews may be recorded in English, as well as Chinese, Russian, Spanish, and other languages.

Stephen Gaffney is an artist who restored the beloved vintage signs and painted new ones for Paul's Daughter, the oldest operator on the Coney Island Boardwalk. He talks about how he "memorializes the goings on of the store" with some of his signage, such as Paul's call to customers "Hey! Get It, Get It!"

Naum Barash recounts his 50 years of winter swimming in Ukraine and Brooklyn. A native of Chernovtsy in Ukraine, he is a member of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club. This interview was conducted and recorded in Russian, and includes a Russian transcript and an English translation.

Gladys Sandman and Lucille daCosta, née Salvia, share girlhood memories of growing up on Coney Island's West 5th Street in the 1950s and early '60s before their home was demolished to make way for Warbasse Houses.

Sam Moses, 66, tells stories of his boyhood apprenticeship at a Brooklyn sign shop and his dreams of painting in Coney Island. In 1998, he moved to Sea Gate and started working out of a sign shop in a trailer behind Nathan's. The front of Denny's Ice Cream on Surf Avenue was one of his masterpieces.

Anthony Wang, a resident of senior housing in Coney Island, was born in Shanghai, survived the Cultural Revolution, and immigrated to the U.S. in 1992. This interview was conducted and recorded in Mandarin, and includes a Chinese transcript and an English translation.

Gloria Nicholson was born in Coney Island in 1940 and grew up in a rooming house that her mother managed on the Bowery. She reminisces about the unusual attractions and cast of characters who populated her childhood including Ned Tilyou, Tirza's Wine Baths, Shatzkins Knishes, the Shark Lady, and fortune-telling myna birds.

Jeffrey L. Wilson shares memories of growing up in Coney Island, where his family moved to O'Dwyer Gardens from Flatbush in 1986. Now an editor at PC Magazine, he writes about video games and other tech subjects, and talks about his formative years as a regular at Faber's Fascination arcade.

Deena Metzger is a writer, poet and healer who was born in Brighton Beach in 1936, moved to Sea Gate when she was three, and went to school in Coney Island. "The land, the water, the sea were formative characters in my life," she says. "When I was young I believed that one learned to write by walking."

Michael Cooper and Hyeyoung Kim are a lyricist and composer who began working collaboratively in 2005. They talk about researching and writing Luna Park, a musical which chronicles the partnership of Fred Thompson and Skip Dundy, creators of Coney Island's first Luna Park.

Ida Rosenblum Gambrell, 94, recalls her childhood summers in Coney Island at her aunt's home on Surf Avenue and West 24th Street, where one of the rooms was rented to summer boarders, and getting separated from her family during the chaos of the Luna Park fire of 1932.

posted Mar 12th, 2018 in News and tagged with oral history, Archive, Interviews,...

Black History Month Coney Island History Project

In celebration of Black History Month, take a moment and listen online to these interviews from the Coney Island History Project Oral History Archive featuring historic figures, authors, and community leaders.  

David Head, a retired NYC Transit worker and former chairman of the Black History Committee for TWU Local 100, tells the story of African-American inventor Granville T. Woods (1856-1910).  "I came across a courageous pioneer who pressed on with his dreams during a very difficult historical period of race relations," he says. "As I began to look deeper into the life of this man, I became truly amazed by his achievements." Among Woods' many electrical patents was one for the world's first electric roller coaster, which was located in Coney Island a century ago. Head was instrumental in having a street across from Coney's Stillwell Avenue Subway Terminal renamed "Granville T. Woods Way."

Historian Eric K. Washington rediscovers African American artist E.J. Perry, who was called "America's most famous silhouette cutter" by The Billboard in the early 20th century. Perry had a concession at Coney Island's Luna Park, where it was said "he is there with a nice spiel and and he cuts your picture with the scissors in a minute." The silhouettist also worked at Coney Island's Dreamland, the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair and the 1907 Jamestown Exposition.  "I think he's still an enigma, but bit by bit he's getting clearer," says Washington. "I think a bigger story or a popular story could easily come out of this man's life."

When Ronald Stewart recorded this interview in 2007, he had lived in Coney Island for exactly half a century. He has worked as the director of a youth program and a parole officer, owned a local bookstore and barber shop, and is a community activist.  When he was a boy, his family was forced out of their bungalow home by Fred Trump's "urban removal" to build Trump Village. He recounts his childhood and the various places he has lived in Coney, including Mermaid Houses, O'Dwyer Houses, West 33rd Street, and his current home, one of the houses built by Astella Development.

Mathylde Frontus grew up in Coney Island as the eldest child of Haitian immigrant parents and is currently an adjunct assistant professor at Columbia School of Social Work.  In 2004, she founded Urban Neighborhood Services (UNS), a small multi-service agency on Mermaid Avenue that offers services in the areas of housing, employment, legal referral, financial literacy, counseling, and youth leadership. In addition to her work as UNS’s executive director through 2016, Frontus is also the founder and outgoing chair of the Coney Island Anti-Violence Collaborative – a coalition of stakeholders working to reduce gun violence in the Coney Island community.

Shirley Aikens has called Coney Island her home for nearly 40 years and is president of the Carey Gardens Tenants Association and a member of Community Board 13 and the NYPD's 60th Precinct Community Council. Aikens recounts moving to Carey Gardens with her one-year-old daughter in the 1970s, her first impressions of Coney Island, and how it has changed over the years. For ten years she worked at Astroland Park, where she enjoyed her jobs as a water race game operator and boardwalk arcade manager.  Aikens talks about the need for jobs for teens under 18 and a parking garage in the amusement area to alleviate summer traffic

Alfie Davis has lived in Coney Island for nearly 40 years and is the Tenant Association Leader of the Sea Rise I complex in Coney Island's West End. Part I of her family's story illuminates an incredible chapter of African-American history. Originally from South Carolina and Florida, the family migrated north to New York City in the 1930s and lived together on West 108th Street and later in Queens. When Davis first moved to Coney Island in 1980, her friends on Brooklyn's Pacific Street said "Are you going to live on top of a roller coaster?" because "nobody knew that there was anything developed in Coney island except the amusement park."

Economic development specialist Georganna Deas is a Coney Island resident and advocate who has lived in the Gravesend Houses on Kaiser Park for forty years.  After moving here in 1977, she worked with Coney Island Pride and then with Astella Development. Deas recalls advocating for a one-fare zone and against the privatization of Coney Island Hospital. Among the transformations she has seen are fires blighting the neighborhood, Astella building over 1,000 houses on the vacant lots, and the rezoning plan of the Coney Island Development Corporation.

There was hopeful news from a Valentine's Day meeting of the Landmarks Preservation Commission regarding Coney Island's Riegelmann Boardwalk. In an apparent reversal of their past refusal to grant Scenic Landmark status for the iconic boardwalk, the agency is now offering to protect and honor the nearly century-old structure. The designation is a positive and welcome first step toward recognizing the historical and cultural significance of the Boardwalk, something that advocates have been hoping and fighting for.

The landmarking effort was spearheaded by Councilmen Mark Treyger and Chaim Deutsch, who began meeting with the LPC back in 2014. Councilman Treyger pointed out that landmark status will preserve the Boardwalk in perpetuity and require oversight, review, and public scrutiny when major changes are proposed by the NYC Department of Parks, which oversees the beach and Boardwalk.

The unusual public outreach meeting, hosted by Treyger and Deutsch and attended by LPC Commissioner Srinivasan and four staff members, was held at the YMCA in the West End of Coney Island. As we've noted before, landmark designation is advisory and has no regulatory input on requiring a wooden surface for the structure, as it is city owned. That will be a different battle. But it does change the legal status and regulatory oversight that will bring the issue into the public domain. Many thanks to Councilmen Treyger and Deutsch for their tireless efforts in protecting the Boardwalk. When landmarking is approved, the Boardwalk will join Ocean Parkway as Coney Island's only other Scenic Landmark. Now on to the public hearings at the City Planning Commission and a vote to make this a reality!

— Charles Denson


Coney Island Creek is the last remnant of a vast and vibrant salt marsh estuary that once covered nearly 3,000 acres between the sand dunes of Coney Island and the glacial plain of what is now Southern Brooklyn. The waterway became Coney Island’s earliest attraction as the island’s first hotels sprang up along the creek’s shoreline during the 1820s. Until the late 19th century, pristine Coney Island Creek remained a popular destination for boating, fishing, crabbing, and hunting waterfowl.  

    The sprawling resorts that opened along the oceanfront in the 1870s began using the creek to dispose of raw sewage, initiating of a pattern of abuse that continued for the next century. As Coney Island developed and grew into the “World’s Playground,” the surrounding marshes were filled in with garbage and ash, polluting the creek and transforming it into a two-mile long industrial waterway that still drains Southern Brooklyn through numerous storm sewer systems. For several decades, the neglected and toxic creek survived misguided attempts to destroy it by filling it in rather than restoring it.

    The Clean Water Act of 1972 and a new ecological awareness changed public perception and gave new life to Coney’s neglected waterway. The 100,000 residents who live in close proximity to Coney Island Creek are coming to realize that the creek can be an asset instead of a liability. It’s now a case for Environmental Justice.  Today the creek has four parks along its shoreline and is once again being used for recreation, fishing, and boating. But much work remains to be done in restoring and protecting this dynamic ecosystem.

– Charles Denson

The Yellow Submarine on Coney Island Creek

Diving Coney Island Creek With the Mark V Diving Suit

posted Jan 12th, 2018 in Video Posts and tagged with Coney Island Creek, Charles Denson

If you have fond memories of the batting cages on Stillwell Avenue, the International Speedway Go-Karts, the Jumbo Jet Roller Coaster, the Dragon's Cave on the Bowery, or the 1970s revived Steeplechase Park located on the site of the original, then you've had a taste of Norman Kaufman's Coney Island vision. He was known for his amusements, but his epic battle with Fred Trump was legendary.

Norman Kaufman, who passed away last November, was born in Coney Island and remained a force there for eighty years. His family operated the famous Mayflower photo studio and souvenir stand on Surf Avenue during the 1930s. "I began working in a darkroom at the age of eleven," Norman said, "developing photos for twenty cents an hour before automatic picture machines were invented." The photo studio's main prop was an old wooden rowboat named the "Mayflower" that enabled generations of immigrants to have their picture taken arriving in America as "Pilgrims."

During the 1940s, the Kaufman family operated the infamous World War II "atrocity show" in the Lido Hotel on Surf Avenue in partnership with Messmore and Damon, who manufactured the show's animated figures. When the attraction closed in the 1960s, Norman reclaimed many of the show's figures and used them in the family's bizarre spook house, the Dragon's Cave.

Norman and his brother, Sporty, had transformed their "Fun in the Dark" dark ride into a Bowery landmark whose entrance was topped with an animated smoke-belching dragon that swiveled above the crowds waiting in line. Norman had a hand in many Coney Island businesses. He managed the Log Flume ride in Astroland Park and later opened a slot-car raceway in a Surf Avenue storefront.

The fire-breathing Dragon at the Dragon's Cave. © Charles Denson, 1971

Norman Kaufman's frustrating battle with developer Fred Trump during his attempt to resurrect Steeplechase Park was a major chapter in my book, Coney Island Lost and Found and is worth repeating. In 1967, just after Trump's bulldozers finished leveling the historic park, Norman leased half of the vacant site for $20,000 a year to build a parking lot. Trump didn't realize, however, that Norman was a dreamer with ambitious plans. Norman began adding rides and concessions to his parking lot until he had pieced together an odd little amusement park that he named "Steeplechase."

"I was a little stupid or naive," he told me in 1999, "I thought that I could build up the new Steeplechase into a powerhouse that the city couldn't take away. I was thinking that I could stop whatever plans the city had for the Steeplechase site. Rather than have them come up with something, I figured I could build this amusement park into something that the city would be proud of and leave intact."

From the New York Post, June 26,1975

Norman and his partner, Irving Vichinsky, had trouble with landlord Fred Trump right from the start. The Steeplechase site was below grade and had to be leveled for parking. Trump's lease required Norman to spread ash on the parking lot surface, and Norman found a way to get the ash for free. Dewey High School was under construction on a site near the Coney Island transit yards that had once been used as a dumping ground for ash from steam locomotives. The builders needed a place to dispose of the excavated material, and Norman provided one for free: Steeplechase Park.

"Trump thought that we made a fortune by letting them dump the ash on his property," Norman told me. "He counted the trucks coming in and thought we were putting something over on him. But I never made a dime from it." Trump accused Norman of taking advantage of him, threatened to terminate the Steeplechase lease, and placed a sign over the park's entrance that read: "closed by order of the landlord."

Trump then came to the site with a pail and a shovel and began taking samples of the ash. "He put it in his car," Norman recalled, "and said to me, 'I'm gonna have this tested, Kaufman. You don't have ash here.' It was a pressure play. At times Trump would park his Cadillac in front of my entrance, so I said, 'You're blocking me off, Trump.' He'd say, 'I know what's going on here, Kaufman. You got no lease. You have to get out now. He was shoveling and yelling, 'You got no lease.' Whether you were big or small, that's the way he did business. It was always at your own level."

The harassment escalated when Norman began to install rides in the parking lot. "Trump didn't like the idea that I was bringing in rides rather than parking. He was getting a percentage and thought we'd make more money with parking than by taking up space with amusement equipment." Norman came in one morning to find his big parking sign knocked down, so he put it back up. The next day, he discovered a mound of debris blocking the entrance so he called a builder friend to clear it away. A few days later, a heavy chain appeared across the entrance, but Norman had it cut down. "Trump came back," Norman told me, "and said, 'Hey Kaufman, you got my chain. Give me back my chain.' He wanted us out."

Norman took out a restraining order against Trump and also went to the Sixtieth Precinct to file an enforcement complaint against the developer. Trump couldn't understand why Norman wasn't intimidated by him and seemed to enjoy the confrontations. "He couldn't figure out how I operated," Norman said. "He thought I was connected, but I wasn't connected to anybody. Trump wanted to put the pressure on us to get an increase in rent. He was a tough guy but we figured out a way to get to him. He had a tremendous memory and would remember everything that ever took place from the time you started with him. He'd rattle it right through and he would just keep going and never stop talking. You never had a chance to get a word in. What Irving and I did was distract him and then I could tell him my thoughts. As one of us distracted him, the other would jab away with our point. It worked."

By drawing people down the Bowery past Sixteenth Street, just as the original Steeplechase Park had done, the park kept the west end of Coney's amusement area alive. Many people dismissed Norman's park because they compared it with the original Steeplechase Park. The unfair comparisons bothered Norman: "We had fourteen kiddie rides and twenty-six majors and spectaculars. A major is a standard ride. A spectacular is something that's unusual. There were quite a number of spectaculars, like the Jumbo Jet, the Italian Skooter rides, and a German swing ride. We were the first ones to have this new equipment, and it was better than average. These were newer rides that Coney Island didn't have for many, many years."

The midway at Kaufman's Steeplechase, circa 1970. © Charles Denson

By 1968, the park was attracting large crowds. Trump was happy because he was getting a percentage, so he extended Kaufman's lease. Then, much to Norman's surprise, Trump offered him a job. "He liked that I got ahead and won," Norman said. "Trump don't like anybody winning but him. But I knew he was just being cute with his offer."

After failing to obtain a zoning change to build high-rise housing, Trump sold the Steeplechase site to the city in 1969 for $4 million, clearing a $1.5 million profit. The city was legally required to continue Norman's lease for $20,000 a year, the same deal he had with Trump

In 1972 Norman learned that the Steeplechase horse race, the namesake ride that the Tilyous had sold to Pirate's World Park in Dania, Florida, was up for sale. Norman bought the ride and sent twelve workers to Florida to number the tracks, horses, and various other pieces, and then trucked them back to Coney Island for a future reassembly on the original site. He stored the ride in shipping containers while he made plans to rebuild it. The horses made the papers in 1975 when they were stolen but later found in Pennsylvania and returned. The ride was never reassembled, but one of the original Steeplechase horses is now on display at the Coney Island History Project, courtesy of Norman Kaufman.

The pressure to evict Norman's amusement park intensified in 1974 when the city tried to raise his yearly rent from $20,000 to $158,446. It was during this dark period that Fred Trump began calling to offer his support. "He called me up and said, 'Listen, Kaufman, it's good to be in the papers. Don't worry about it. It's good that they know ya.'"

Norman finally realized that his plans were hopeless and closed his Steeplechase Park in 1981, when the city paid him $750,000 to leave the site. In 1983, Steeplechase was developed into public open space. A year later, the site became a city park, the first "special events" park in the city's history. The Brooklyn Cyclones ball park (now MCU Park) was later built on the site. In 2009, the city rezoned the entire MCU Park parking lot and most of the surrounding area for high-rise housing, fulfilling Fred Trump's dream of reducing Coney Island's amusement zone.

Norman's next amusement project, operated with his son, Kenny, was located on Stillwell Avenue and the Bowery after Stauch's Baths, the Bobsled, and the Tornado Roller Coaster were demolished. The Jumbo Jet Coaster, batting cages, and Go-Karts became some of Coney Island's most popular attractions in an age when the amusement area was shrinking. His last attraction was a Mini Golf Course that he constructed in 2002 a few years before the city began rezoning the area, forcing the eventual closure of all his attractions.

Norman Kaufman will be sorely missed. He was a big fan of the Coney Island History Project and lent us many artifacts for our exhibit center. As Coney Island loses its identity and slides into a corporate entity, it's important to remember independent impresarios like Norman Kaufman, "the Buddha of the Midway," a generous man with imagination who was not afraid to do battle with the powers that be.

– Charles Denson

Norman Kaufman and his son Kenny in front of their Jumbo Jet Roller Coaster, 1999. Photo © Charles Denson

posted Jan 6th, 2018 in By Charles Denson and tagged with

The Coney Island History Project recently unveiled our latest collaboration with P.S. 90, the Magnet School for Environmental Studies and Community Wellness. Located on West 12th Street, just down the block from the History Project, the school has a unique and historic location in Coney Island, as it's the only school in the amusement area. Our project focuses on the history of the school site and the surrounding area and explains why it's important to know the past.

Students are amazed to learn that a hotel in the shape of an elephant was once located across the street from the school's site, as were the original Luna Park, an ostrich farm, and a roller coaster that ran the length of the block. The school itself was built in 1964 on the former site of the Coney Island Velodrome, a 10,000-seat oval stadium erected in the 1920s for bicycle racing and which later held boxing matches and midget car races. The Velodrome was demolished in the early 1950s, and the property sold to Fred Trump, Donald Trump's father, who eventually sold it when his plan to build housing on the site was derailed by a federal investigation into his business practices .

The Coney Island Velodrome in the 1930s, looking south. West 12th street is at left.

The Coney Island History Project produced several archival photo banners for the school's entrance, including one that pinpoints the exact location of the P.S. 90 site as it looked in the 1880s when the Elephant Hotel stood watch over Coney Island. The banners are a continuation of our school presentations which began in April with a talk in the auditorium by History Project director Charles Denson about the history of West 12th Street and how it evolved over the years. The next part of the project will be illustrated history plaques, designed to give students at the school a sense of place on one of the most interesting streets in Coney Island.

This community history program is made possible with the support of New York City Councilman Mark Treyger.

P.S. 90 students are inspired by the landmarks surrounding their school.



posted Nov 16th, 2017 in News and tagged with Coney Island, history, landmarks,...

Coney Island History Project

Walk the Boardwalk with the Coney Island History Project! Our 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 our Oral History Archive, and other primary sources. Coney Island History Project Walking Tours are offered on Saturdays and Sundays at 12:30PM by advance reservation via our eventbrite page. Tickets are $20. The 1-1/2 hour tour is wheelchair accessible.

All Coney Island History Project Walking Tours are weather permitting. If a tour is cancelled due to the weather forecast, ticket orders will be refunded. If you have a question or you would like to schedule a private tour or group visit, please email

Kaiser Park

Join us this Saturday, October 14, for International Coastal Cleanup Day along Coney Island Creek in Kaiser Park. 

The free event is from 9AM to 2PM and will include a coastal clean-up and tables representing  local schools and organizations. 

Stop by the Coney Island History Project's table to learn about our free programs and pick up a copy of the Coney Island CreekWalk booklet produced by the History Project for Partnerships for Parks.

posted Oct 13th, 2017 in Events and tagged with Environment, Coney Island Creek, NYSMEA,...

Nathan and Ida Handwerker Way

Photo © Coney Island History Project, September 24, 2016

The People’s Playground is dotted with street signs honoring people whose contributions have made Coney Island history.  Last September, the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenue was officially co-named Nathan and Ida Handwerker Way in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Nathan’s Famous.  The distinctive green and white street sign is among the sights we point out on our Coney Island History Project Walking Tour. Over the weekend, we noticed it was missing. The bracket and bolts that attached it to the pole remains, but the sign appears to have been stolen.

Nathan and Ida Handwerker Way

Photo © Coney Island History Project,  September 15, 2017

Also missing is the sign for Milton Berger Place on Surf Avenue between West 8th and West 10th Streets. Berger was a press agent for Steeplechase Park, the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce and Astroland, where his former office window overlooked one of  the signs. A second sign was across the street in front of the Cyclone Roller Coaster. The corner was also co-named Dewey Albert Place for the founder of Astroland and in honor of the 70th anniversary of the Cyclone.

Milton Berger Place

Photo © Coney Island History Project, November 16, 2014

According to the Archives of the Mayor’s Press Office in 1997, when Berger's street was co-named: “His efforts to keep the Coney Island area economically viable led to a variety of promotions and events, including producing fireworks displays, promoting marathon roller-coaster rides, offering parties for handicapped youngsters and helping to secure the landmark designation of the Cyclone Roller Coaster.”

Surf Avenue and West 10th Street

Photo © Coney Island History Project,  September 15, 2017

The Coney Island History Project has reported the missing signs to the Department of Transportation, which replied that it takes 14 days to respond to this type of complaint.

Among the honorary street signs you can see on the Coney Island History Project Walking Tour are Denos D. Vourderis Place at West 12th St, named for the founder of Denos Wonder Wheel Park; Ruby Jacobs Walk on the Boardwalk, named for the founder of Ruby’s Bar & Grill; and Gargiulo’s Way on West 15th Street, named to mark the 100th anniversary of Gargiulo’s Restaurant.  According to New York City Council’s street co-naming legislation, proposed honorees must be either individuals who are deceased or New Yorkers of significant importance to New York City.

Update: The Nathan and Ida Handwerker sign was replaced in October 2017, and the Milton Berger sign was replaced in January 2018. Since then, the Handwerker sign, which was installed in 2016, has gone missing every year: April 2018, April 2019, and July 2020. The Coney Island History Project reported the missing signs to NYC DOT for replacement. Having been stolen four times in four years, Nathan and Ida's sign is a candidate for the most sought after street sign in New York City. In 2010, the sign for Joey Ramone Place, which had been stolen four times in seven years was said by Gothamist to be the most frequently stolen of New York City's 250,900 street signs.

posted Sep 18th, 2017 in History and tagged with Nathan Handwerker, Ida Handwerker, Milton Berger,...