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

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...
Remembers Astroland Rocket
Louis has fond memories of riding Astroland's one-of-a-kind Rocket simulator, the very first ride to arrive at the space-age themed park in 1962. On January 28, 2009, Louis, who works at the Aquarium, was excited to see the 71-foot Rocket on a...
Grandson of Coney Island Developer William J. Ward
Jack Ward recounts his family’s long history in Coney Island. He begins with his great grandfather John Ward's purchase of beachfront property at 12th Street and Surf Avenue in 1879 and continues through his grandfather William J. Ward's...
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...
Fisherman performs his Tahitian-inspired song "This Place, Coney Island"
Musician Brian "Fisherman" Lease visited the Coney Island History Project and performs a Tahitian inspired song he wrote called "This Place, Coney Island."
Grew up in Brighton Beach
Joan lived in Brighton Beach from 1940 to 1961 and has visited every summer all her life. She has various isolated childhood memories, including riding the Parachute Jump, the Mermaid Avenue library, the "third rail" of the Steeplechase...
A lover of Steeplechase Park
Paul says Steeplechase is in his blood. He would go there with his family from 1955 to 1963 when the pool closed. When he went back in '66, he realized how much he missed it and began collecting Coney Island artifacts. To date he has collected...