New on our YouTube channel: Charles Denson's Mermaid Avenue in the 1950's brings together photos from the Coney Island History Project Collection and the voices of Michael "Looch" Goldstein and Stanley Fox. They grew up at opposite ends of Mermaid Avenue and recorded their memories of the Avenue in the 1950s for the Coney Island History Project Oral History Archive. Goldstein and Fox operated businesses in Coney Island's amusement area for over 60 years.

Listen to their stories and those of Jimmy Prince of Major Meats and Steven Feinstein of Wilensky Hardware,  whose Mermaid Avenue businesses survived  into the 21st century.  Major Meats closed when Jimmy retired in 2009.  Wilensky Hardware is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2020.   You're invited to share your Coney Island memories at coneyislandhistory.org/oral-history-archive.

posted Jun 25th, 2020 in Video Posts and tagged with Coney Island, Mermaid Avenue, 1950s,...

Coney Island History Project Podcast


When the NY Pause order went into effect in mid-March, the Coney Island History Project suspended all in-person events and activities and focused on creating new online content, including videos, blogs, oral histories, and additions to our online collection. We're thrilled to announce Beyond the Boardwalk, our new podcast series produced from oral histories in the History Project's archive.

Episodes 1 and 2 are immigrant stories about Coney's restaurants and food stands as told by their mom-and-pop owners and family members. Among the past and present Coney Island food businesses featured in the podcasts are Gargiulo's, Totonno's, Nathan's Famous, Pete's Clam Stop, Lido Bar & Grill, Gregory & Paul's, Paul's Daughter, and Tacos Dona Zita. An upcoming episode will feature Mermaid Avenue businesses. The podcast is produced by Charles Denson, Ali Lemer and Tricia Vita. Listen online via the Coney Island History Project's podcast pageBeyond the Boardwalk will soon be available on iTunes, Stitcher, and other podcast listening apps, with 4 episodes being released initially.

Among the new films created by Coney Island History Project director Charles Denson for his Coneyologist channel on YouTube are The Cleon Collection: Building the Boardwalk, 1922. Hyman Cleon supervised the construction of the Coney Island Boardwalk in 1922. His family recently donated Cleon's personal photographs to the Coney Island History Project. The video highlights a selection of images from the collection. Mermaid Avenue in the 1950's brings together photos from the Coney Island History Project Collection and the voices of Michael "Looch" Goldstein and Stanley Fox. They grew up at opposite ends of Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island and recorded their memories of the Avenue in the 1950s for the Coney Island History Project Oral History Archive. Goldstein and Fox operated businesses in Coney Island's amusement area for over 60 years.

posted Jun 24th, 2020 in News and tagged with Coney Island, podcast, Coney Island History Project

Richard Termini's earliest memories are of playing under the El on New Utrecht Avenue in Bensonhurst, where his family operated Termini's Bakery. Founded by his grandfather Giuseppe 'Joe' Termini in Manhattan in the early years of the 20th century, the bakery soon moved to Brooklyn, where it prospered and fed the extended family until closing in 1985. Richard recounts memories of baking with his grandfather and of neighborhood residents lining up to cook their Thanksgiving turkeys in the store's brick oven. His parents Carmella Turturro and Richard Termini met in Coney Island in the 1940s at Ravenhall Baths, where he has fond memories of being taken as a child. As a six-year-old in 1962, he rode the Astroland Rocket, an experience that inspired a lifelong interest in designing and building high power rockets. Now living in Australia, Richard shares his impressions of the last time he visited Coney Island in August 2001.

Coney Island History Project Oral History Archive

We're thrilled that the Coney Island History Project's Oral History Archive is featured in The New York Times virtual things to do "At Home" section!

You can still enjoy Coney Island this season thanks to the Coney Island History Project. Listen to New Yorkers recount their experiences at the treasured amusement park and beach. And if you have your own beloved memory of Coney Island, you can submit it to the project’s archive.

When: Anytime

Where: coneyislandhistory.org/tags/oral-history-archive

Sign up to schedule a an interview via phone, Skype or Zoom here.

posted Jun 15th, 2020 in News and tagged with Oral History Archive, oral history, Oral Histories,...

Today, June 7th, 2020, was to have been the Coney Island History Project and Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park's 9th Annual History Day celebration on the Boardwalk with performances by musicians and dancers paying tribute to Coney Island's immigrant heritage. Instead, we are living through history, with a worldwide pandemic, racial justice movement, and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Future historians will think about society as pre- and post-2020. In the meantime, please enjoy this video compilation of our 2019 History Day, with performances by Irina Roizin's Brighton Ballet Theater School of Russian Ballet, Haitian drummer Gaston "Bonga" Jean-Baptiste, Mariachi Real De Mexico de Ramon Ponce, Jenny Luna's songs in the Turkish and Rumeli traditions, and Julia Liu's New York Music and Dance Organization, with DJ Dan Kingman, Deno Vourderis, and Charles Denson.

posted Jun 7th, 2020 in News and tagged with Coney Island, Coney Island History Project, History Day,...

Happy 100th Birthday, Deno's Wonder Wheel from the Coney Island History Project! Join Charles Denson in this video sing-a-long of a 1920's song celebrating the joys of the Wonder Wheel to the tune of The Sidewalks of NY.  He discovered the song while researching Coney Island's Wonder Wheel Park and the lyrics are in the soon-to-be published book. We had planned to invite everyone to sing it at the now to be rescheduled Memorial Day Weekend Celebration. 

posted May 23rd, 2020 in News and tagged with

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day from the Coney Island History Project! Enjoy this photo collage of some of the mothers and grandmothers who visited our exhibition center in past seasons with their kids and grandkids.

posted May 10th, 2020 in News and tagged with

Coney Island History Project Oral History Archive

During these days of social distancing, you're invited to share and preserve your Coney Island memories by recording an oral history via phone or Skype.

Our audio interviews are conducted in English, Russian, Chinese, Spanish and other languages 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.

posted May 1st, 2020 in Events and tagged with oral history, Oral History Archive

Ruthie and Shorty, Astroland Park, 2006

Ruth Magwood, our friend who passed away last week, loved lighthouses. Her house across the street from Coney Island Creek Park was filled with lighthouse photos and books and statues. She loved Coney Island, having lived and worked there for 47 years. Ruthie worked the front office at Astroland Park until it closed in 2008. Her partner, Walter "Shorty" Arsenault, who passed away in 2011, was the long-time manager of Astroland's kiddie park. Her son Indio was a Coney Island sideshow performer before moving to Austria.  Ruthie was a regular at Ruby's and Peggy O’Neal’s, a great storyteller with an ironic sense of humor.  Her other sons and family members lived near her home in Coney Island's West End. During her years at Astroland, Ruthie photographed the park's events and created numerous photo albums that are now part of the Coney Island History Project Archive.

Ruthie always lived near the water and had roots in Gerritsen Beach. She lived all over Coney Island before buying a nice home by the park many years ago. Her health suffered terribly after Hurricane Sandy's storm surge destroyed her house. She rebuilt her home right after the storm but had to move out and rebuild a second time due to new zoning restrictions. The pitfalls of rebuilding and the abject failures of the Build It Back program caused her to lose her life savings. 

The constant stress of dealing with endless beauracracy, red tape, and questionable contractors caused heart problems and her health failed. Yet Ruthie carried on as an advocate for the community. Last summer, when it was rumored that the city was planning to move a ferry dock to Kaiser Park rather than West 33rd Street, she spoke out at a protest at the Kaiser Park fishing pier. Poor health didn't stop her from protecting the park as Ruthie cared deeply about her Coney Island community. We will miss her. She was one of a kind. (Her son Adam will announce a memorial service to be held sometime in the future.)

— Charles Denson

(Since the demonstration last August, it's been found that the Kaiser Park location requires dredging that will release toxic materials into Coney Island Creek. See link.)
www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/9205-we-want-a-ferry-for-coney-island-but-...

 

posted Apr 9th, 2020 in By Charles Denson and tagged with In Memoriam

Coney Island History Project
Today we thank business owners and their employees who are staying open so that we can stay at home and stay safe. Among the Coney Island History Project's online archive of oral history interviews are a pharmacist, a restaurant chef, and a hardware store owner who are providing essential services to the Coney Island community during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Along with prescriptions, pharmacist Ho Cheung Li dispenses news and advice in English, Cantonese & Mandarin at J & R Pharmacy at 2302 Mermaid Avenue. "Serving the customer is the main point of being a pharmacist," said Li in his oral history, which we recorded in 2015. 
  
One-hundred-year-old Wilensky Hardware at 2126 Mermaid Avenue is an anchor of the community and remains open Monday through Saturday. Listen to our newly recorded oral history with Steven Feinstein, the owner of Coney Island's oldest family-owned business.  Wilensky's opened in 1920 as a paint store before branching out into specialty hardware. Pick up some paint and other supplies to work on home improvement projects during the stay at home order.

Among the Coney Island restaurants which remain open for take out and delivery are Footprints Cafe at 1521 Surf Avenue, which specializes in Caribbean cuisine. Listen to our 2015 interview with Chef Basil Jones, the originator of their famed Rasta Pasta.  For their temporary hours, visit Footprints website.
 

posted Apr 8th, 2020 in News and tagged with oral history, Footprints Cafe, Wilensky Hardware,...