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

The King of Jones Walk
Wally Roberts has been operating amusements in Coney Island since the 1940’s. He rented space in the Feltman’s Building for storage and for a candy shop that sold salt water taffy, popcorn, and jelly apples. He remembers Feltman’s hotdogs, the first...
Remembers visiting Coney Island as a girl
Shirley Helems (ne DeCarlo) remembers visiting the beach and Steeplechase Park as a girl. Her mother would bring Shirley and her sister by bus and even brought the girls' grandparents' from Italy when they visited.
Founder of the Sea Gate Historical Society
Pete Spanakos first became familiar with Coney Island in the 1950's when he worked cleaning the beaches. In 1967, he moved into an historic home in Sea Gate built by Chrysler Building architect William Van Alen. Spanakos has a Golden Glove...
Queen of Coney Island
Janet Panetta's family had a locker at the Steeplechase Park Bathhouse in the 1950's. She and her sister were set loose to play in the pool and around the park. One summer, Janet contracted polio and remembers being called the Queen of...
Helicopter pilot who landed on the Coney Island beach
Each spring New York City honors the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps during Fleet Week. Major Stacy Pandak participated as the first female pilot in the USMC MAGTF Air/Ground Demo in Coney Island. She explains some details about how the demo is...
An adventuresome youth in Coney Island
Naomi Starss shares this story from her youth about getting in trouble with the police for panhandling with a girlfriend in Coney Island when they were fourteen years old. She describes how they made friends with a good-looking policeman who...
Holders of Coney Island History
82 year-old Ben Grisar and his wife Vivian both grew up in Coney Island. Ben's grandfather owned many businesses in Coney Island including partial ownership in Dreamland Park, which was destroyed by fire in 1911. He shares his personal memories...
Descendants of Max "Kid Twist" Zweifach
Sue Fox is the granddaughter of Max Zweifach (aka Zwerbach), a notorious Jewish gangster who was the original "Kid Twist" and the leader of Monk Eastman's gang. He died in Coney Island in 1908 at the hands of rival gangster Louie...
Owner of Philips Candy Store
A Coney Island classic, Philips Candy Store, has moved to Staten Island but owner John Dorman recalls his decades open for business in the Stillwell Avenue train terminal. The shop originally opened in 1930 in that location, but Dorman began working...
Friends since Mark Twain Junior High years
Steve Garone (pictured above on the right) and Dan Pisark met as students at Mark Twain Junior High School and continued on together through Lafayette High School. Steve grew up in Gravesend Houses and recalls being poor but very happy as a kid in...