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

Parachute Jump lighting designer
Leni Schwendinger discusses her inspiration and process in creating a lighting design for the Parachute Jump including color selection and finding a way to express the feeling and movement of the Parachute Jump when it was a working ride. She...
Polish immigrant finds success with an Italian food stand in 1950s Coney Island
Morris Egert moved to Coney Island with his family in the early 1950's from Paterson, New Jersey to open a food stand on 16th Street across from Steeplechase Park. As recent immigrants from Poland, they served chopped liver, gefilte fish and...
Took the 13th Ave. trolley
Dave Galler grew up at 72nd Street and 12th Avenue in an area known as Dyker Beach, between Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, in the 1940's. He still remembers the details of the train and trolley routes he took to get to Coney Island. The...
Sideshow Proprietor
John Strong operated a sideshow in the summer of 2009 in Coney Island. He describes the animals in his show... all of which have unusual features such as extra eyes, heads or legs. John tells the story of a five-legged dog that caused a controversy...
Roller coaster restorer and enthusiast
Robert Maxwell came with his wife to visit Coney Island from the town of Amsterdam in upstate New York. They drove down for the day to eat Nathan's hot dogs and ride The Cyclone. Robert estimates that has ridden The Cyclone at least 35-40 times...
Loved growing up and raising children in Coney Island
Vivian Palo remembers that as a girl growing up in Coney Island, she would eat breakfast in her swimsuit and then head out to the beach until sunset. Vivian lived in Coney Island until the mid-1970's when crime and the destruction of her home...
Long-time manager of Astroland's Kiddieland
Walter "Shorty" Arsenault worked his whole career in the amusement business, starting in Coney Island at the Nellie Bly Amusement Park and then working for many years in Astroland. He managed the section of the park with children's...
Family owned Levy's Bar and Grill
Karen Levy Fogel was born in the mid-1940's to a family who owned and operated restaurants in New York City.  Her father's family were Sephardic Jewish immigrants from Turkey and her mother's family were Ashkenazi Jews who also lived...
Juilliard trained musician whose family owned Washington Baths
Jose Beth Smolensky describes growing up working for the Washington Baths, her family's Coney Island business. Her father, Harry Smolensky had high standards for cleanliness and kept the baths open for a longer season than most. Both of these...
Grew up in a Coney Island bungalow
Tommy Smith grew up with thirteen brothers and sisters in a Coney Island bungalow. Their father worked at a number of bars around town and Tommy began working around town at an early age too. He learned to make egg creams and frappes at Dick'...