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...
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.
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...
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...