Did You Live in Surfside Houses, O’Dwyer or Carey Gardens in the '70s?

Coney Island History Project

O'Dwyer Gardens and ruins of the demolished bungalow colony on Surf Avenue and West 35th Street. Photo © Charles Denson, 1970. The property was a vacant lot until two years ago when John Catsimatidis' Ocean Drive apartments were constructed on the site.

Were you and your family original tenants of Surfside Houses, O’Dwyer Gardens, Carey Gardens, or Unity Towers in the 1970s? We'd like to record your memories for the Coney Island History Project's Oral History Archive and the "Growing Up in the 1970s" episode of our Coney Island Stories podcast. These NYCHA apartment complexes opened in 1969 (O’Dwyer and Surfside), 1970 (Carey Gardens), and 1973 (Unity Towers).

We are working on scripts for future episodes about growing up in the 1980s, 1990s, and the first decade of the 2000s. If you were a child or teenager growing up in Coney Island during those years, we’re also interested in recording your memories.

Audio interviews are currently being recorded via phone or Zoom. Please contact us at events@coneyislandhistory.org or https://www.coneyislandhistory.org/schedule-interview or send a message via Facebook, twitter or Instagram.



I grew up in Coney Island Projects ( moved from Sea Gate in1956). I attended nusery school on 31st and later in Gravesend Projects ( 1954 to 1956. Attended Yeshiva Share Zedek for 1st through 4th grade. Later bused out to PS205. Moved to Brightwater Towers in 1965. Attended Lincoln HS 1964-67. Ran track and played baseball in Kaiser Park. Worked all over the amusement area and also for the Parks Dept. As a criminal defense lawyer I represented some of Coney Island's more notorious residents

Moved into Gravesend projects in 1953 when I was 3 years old, had the best childhood anyone could ask for. In 1969 moved into O'Dwyer Gardens, just 1 1/2 blocks away, another beautiful place to live, new friends, new neighbors. In 1970 I got married & moved into the same building as my parents. Coney Island was the best place to grow up, learned from early age the different cultures of family by going to friends homes, eating different food, seeing how people from different cultures lived & communicated, different from my family. Also raised 2 sons there, who also became good adults in this beautiful community.

I was born in Coney Island. My parents ran Dalton's Bar as a summer business. We lived above the bar. They also leased the bungalows behind the bar and a parking lot next to it as well as a rooming house next to the parking lot which we called the "Big House" and three more bungalows on 33rrd street.. all one property. Also ran Jefferson Baths across the street. After my father died in 1950 my mother continued to run the summer businesses until about 1960. We loved Coney Island! Loved the freedom of running around with all the neighborhood kids and going to the beach everyday. There were fireworks put on by Schafer every week and people sat out in their chairs on the street at night talking. A favorite night time entertainment for my brothers and I was peeking out our bedroom windows watching the fights on the street outside of McCabe's bar across the street. Sad to see the demolition of our bungalows. We had great times growing up there.

I have memories of growing up in Coney Island during the time when there were only three NYCHA developments. Graves End on Neptune Avenue and Coney Island Houses and Haber Houses on Surf Avenue. A time When we had access to some of the greatest neighborhood stores that were spread out along Mermaid Avenue, a real deli, (Gitlers), a bakery displaying beautiful cakes and a great pizza shop as well as variety stores such as Dave’s Cut Rate & Cheap Charlies and Coopy’s . When we had the Shore Movie theatre also on Mermaid Ave and a bus ride cost Twenty cents. Mostly what stands out in my mind is the Coney Island Gospel Assembly. The Store front church on 31st street and Neptune Ave, which was full of families every Easter Sunday. Children piled into the little church until the building couldn’t hold everybody and we had to set up chairs outside. At this time businesses were closed because everyone understood that Sunday was set aside to acknowledge The Lord God. There was a community wide understanding that Church services were being held and children were instructed to get to Sunday School. Little boys and girls walked to church to receive knowledge of The Creator Of All The Earth and to learn that His love was extended to every human being. Our most beloved Brother Jack walked up and down the streets of the community of Coney Island in a heartfelt urgency to gather the residents under one roof to worship and acknowledge the God Of The Holy Scriptures and His Son Jesus. I still reside in Coney Island and have lived to see the obvious affects of the moral decay of a community which has largely forgotten The Lord. As a young child I remember the sense of belonging that was part of the fabric of Coney Island even though we certainly had our share of hardships and difficulties, there was also a light that emanated from children going to vacation Bible school in the summer and Christmas Pageants in the winter. All of this speaks to the long standing importance of the Coney Island Gospel Assembly Church. A staple, a beacon, an integral part of the history of Coney Island. So glad I came up during that time and equally sad for where we are now.

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