Charles Denson

Charles Denson is executive director of the nonprofit Coney Island History Project, which has created an oral history archive and sponsors educational exhibits, school programs and performances. He is the author of Coney Island: Lost and Found, named 2002 New York Book of the Year by the New York Society Library. Mr. Denson grew up in Coney Island and began documenting his neighborhood as a boy, a passion that continues to this day. A writer, photographer and art director, he began his career in 1971 as a photographer for New York magazine and has since worked as art director for numerous publications. In 1999 he was awarded a Chronicle journalism fellowship at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2013 the New York State Marine Education Association presented the Herman Melville Award to him for his environmental advocacy on behalf of Coney Island Creek.

Interviews

Washington Baths pool and the scary movies at the Mermaid Theater
Arthur Galka was born in Coney Island and spent his 1950s childhood summers at Washington Baths. He tells tales of the swimming pool watermelon races, Shatzkins Knishes, the Mermaid Theater, and the rivalry with Ravenhall. 
Working the Rides: From the streets of Coney Island to the war in Vietnam
Jeffrey Brettler began working in Coney Island at the age of 12 during  the early 1960s. He got to know all the ride operators. He shares vivid memories of the colorful characters he met and describes the idiosyncrasies of some of the most beloved...
A life in Coney Island
For more than 60 years Benny Harrison brought fun and smiles to visitors who enjoyed his delightful, artistic creations. During the last ten years Benny’s  stands on West 12th Street entertained thousands with a  storefront of quirky games and...
Rachel Simon recalls her family's Deli Restaurant on Mermaid Avenue
Rachel Rosenberg Simon's grandparents owned and operated Rosenberg's Kosher Deli Restaurant on Mermaid Avenue from 1917 to 1975. It was considered the finest deli on the Avenue as all the food in the restaurant was homemade. Rachel's entire family...
Tales of unusual dark rides, riots, the Tornado, and the Bowery
Jeff Brooks has worked in Coney Island for more than 50 years and still has a game on the Bowery, just outside Deno's Wonder Wheel Park. Jeff tells the story of Coney Island in the 70s, when it was reminiscent of the Wild West and owners could rent...
Jeff was given less than a year to live. Monica donated a kidney and saved his life.
These two interviews tell an amazing tale of compassion and friendship that goes beyond anything imaginable. Jeff Brooks and Monica Ghee have worked in Coney Island for over fifty years. They now operate three game concessions on the Bowery at Jones...
Community activist and reformed gang member
Community activist Keith Suber grew up in Coney Island as part of a large extended family that lived in the West End. His earliest memories include playing in Kaiser Park across the street from Gravesend Houses, where he lived with his grandmother. ...
Memories of placing the Puerto Rican flag atop the Parachute Jump and driving the Mermaid Avenue bus
Carlos Quinones, 72, is a longtime Coney Island resident who’s well known for his collection of classic cars. He is a Vietnam War veteran and a retired MTA employee who drove the Mermaid Avenue bus for many years. In this interview he clears up the...
Author and historian of carousel horses and carvers and co-founder of the National Carousel Association
An interview with Dr. Roland Summit, author, historian, expert on carousels and carousel horse carvers, and founding member of the National Carousel Association. Beginning in 1959, Roland and his wife Jo collected, restored, and preserved hundreds...
One of Dr. Couney's incubator babies
Janet Rubino tells her story about being one of Dr. Martin Couney's incubator babies on display in Coney Island. Rubino, who weighed 23 ounces at birth, also describes a visit to the incubator exhibit when she was a child.