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

87-year-old remembers the Nickel Empire
Joseph Albanese returns to Coney Island after seventy years to talk about his memories of growing up there. He used to steam at the Washington Baths with his family, eat at Nathan's, and go on all the rides (including the train to get there)...
Grew up on Avenue Z in the 1930's and 40's
Jocelyn Cantor remembers walking to the Boardwalk from her home on Avenue Z and spending whole days at Steeplechase Park with her cousin when they were children. When she got older, Jocelyn and a girlfriend recruited some soldiers on leave to...
Owner of Sheepshead Bay tattoo shop recounts when Coney Island's Stillwell Ave was "Tattoo Alley"
Coney Island Vinny talks about the well-known tattoo artists of the 1950's before tattooing became illegal in Coney Island from 1961-1998. Stillwell Avenue was "Tattoo Alley" and hosted many shops run by local characters with names...
Photographer who worked on a city ambulance for Coney Island Hospital in the late 1970's
Steve started his career in 1975 at age 19 as an EMS ambulance technician for Coney Island Hospital. He shares some of the memorable calls from his midnight shifts through much of the late 70's. Today, Steve is a published photographer who has...
Lived on Mermaid Ave. between 35th and 36th Streets between 1945 and 1965.
Robert Shapiro lived on Mermaid Avenue until his marriage in 1965. He and his wife both grew up in Coney Island and remember neighborhood restaurants, stores and social clubs. Local celebrities like Neil Diamond, Woody Guthrie and Louis Gossett, Jr...
Amusement Ride Operator
Louis Ritter, born in Coney Island on the 4th of July, worked a variety of amusement rides including three carousels and the boardwalk train ride in the 1960s. He also ran a cotton candy stand. When he was a child, people mistook him for John...
Locker Boy at Oriole Baths who hung out at Washington Baths with his friends
Marty Reich spent his teenage years as a locker boy at Oriole Baths on 16th Street and the beach, handing out towels and soap. He went to Oriole Baths with his family, but hung out at Washington Baths with his friends. His uncle, a champion...
Devoted Cyclone Rider
At the time of this interview, Howie was in Coney Island on opening day to ride the Cyclone for the 50th year in a row. He was accompanied by his family, who have also been riding the Cyclone for years. Howie brought his wife to Coney Island shortly...
Model Maker and Music Producer
Roy grew up in Coney Island and, among many other ventures, makes exquisitely detailed scale models of rides like the Himalaya, at which he also worked when he was a child. He tried to get a job at Astroland when he was too young but, eventually,...
Grew up in Luna Park Houses in the 1970's and worked at Nathan's
Maria and Gwen grew up in Luna Park Houses and recount with great joy and pride what it was like to live in Coney Island during the 70's. Maria tells in extraordinary detail her job selling food at Nathan's. Saying that she was among the...