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

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'...
A painter with a Coney Island legacy
Marie Roberts hails from an illustrious Coney Island family.  Her grandfather was the Acting Battalion Chief of the Coney Island district and fought some of the most notable fires in Brooklyn history including the Dreamland fire of 1911 that burned...
Began his career as a sign painter in Coney Island
John Rea is currently an advertising professional and adjunct professor at the School of Visual Arts in New York, but he began his career as a young teenager working for his father, also John Rea, in the Peluso Machine and Iron Works shop in Coney...
Son of Steeplechase Park's general manager, James Onorato
Michael Onorato is the son of James Onorato, who was the general manager of Steeplechase Park from 1928 to 1964 when it closed.  Michael remembers the park in vivid detail and describes growing up there.  He gives a start-to-finish account of going...
Coney Island businessman
Sal Corona grew up working and playing in Coney Island in the 1950's. His Uncle Pete owned the Peluso Machine and Iron Works shop that repaired and fabricated replacement parts for rides, so he could get on many of the major rides in Coney...
Lifelong carousel owner and operator
Jimmy McCullough learned the carousel business from his father, James McCullough, who began his career working on the Steeplechase and Stubbman carousels. Working in Coney Island is a family business going back generations for Jimmy who is a...