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

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...
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...
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...
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...
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.