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Coney Island residents and friends are cordially invited to celebrate Black History Month with us in Coney Island on February 17th. The Coney Island History Project and Urban Neighborhood Services are hosting a slideshow presentation by Charles Denson followed by a panel discussion with long-time community members. Titled "The History of Coney Island's West End and the Presence and Contributions of African Americans in Coney Island from the 1600s to the Present," the slideshow will feature never-before-seen images from Charles Denson's archive and photos that he took in the 1970s.
U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries, Coney Island's first African American Congressman, will be a special guest. The event is sponsored by City Councilman Mark Treyger, State Senator Diane Savino, State Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny, Emblem Health and the Alliance for Coney Island.
Dinner will be served after the presentation.
WHEN: Monday, February 17, 4-6PM
WHERE: PS 329, 2929 West 30th Street, Coney Island
"I am personally excited to work with Charles Denson to bring this very important event to the residents of Coney Island," said Mathylde Frontus, founder of Urban Neighborhood Services, a community-based non-profit founded in 2004 that offers supportive programming on topics such as health and wellness, academic achievement, and other relevant subjects. "African Americans have a long and rich history of contributing to the vibrancy and well-being of this peninsula and I believe that Charlie's slideshow combined with the first-hand accounts of long-time Coney Island residents will really elucidate this all the more."
"The West End of Coney Island is a vibrant and resilient community that's survived many challenges over the last few decades," said Coney Island History Project director Charles Denson. "I grew up there and documented the wave of urban renewal in the 1960s and 1970s that transformed our community and changed the lives of its residents. This slide show will tell the story of the area going back to 1600s."
Please share this event flyer with your friends and neighbors. All are welcome to celebrate Black History Month with us in Coney Island on February 17th.
2014 marks the 10th anniversary of the Coney Island History Project! Ten years ago our oral history project began with a portable recording booth located on the boardwalk. The colorful booth-on-wheels, dubbed the "Memory Booth," had an air-conditioned recording studio illuminated by a skylight. Wooden "wings" opened from the booth to display our mission statement and historic photographs. We parked our booth in front of the Aquarium's education center during the day and in front of Astroland at night. Our program proved to be so popular that we later expanded to a permanent location.
Coney Island History Project Memory Booth, 2005
The History Project was founded by Carol Hill Albert and Jerome Albert in honor of Dewey Albert, creator of Astroland Park, and opened its exhibit center below the Cyclone in 2007. In 2011 we moved to our current home beside the Wonder Wheel at the invitation of the Vourderis family, owners of Deno's Wonder Wheel Park. During the last decade we've recorded the oral histories of many departed Coney luminaries whose stories would have been lost forever. The voices of Jack Ward, Jimmy McCullough, Matt Kennedy, and Joe Rollino and others can be found in our archive.
Carol Hill Albert and Charles Denson in the Memory Booth, 2005
The Coney Island Hall of Fame pays tribute to pioneers and visionaries whose creativity and ingenuity helped shape and define Coney Island over the past century and was inaugurated on West 10th Street opposite the Cyclone roller coaster in 2005. Our exhibits have included "Land Grab: A History of Coney Island Development," "Woody Guthrie's Coney Island Years," "The Astroland Archives Photography Exhibit," "Coney Island Icons," "Luna Park Revisited," "The Dreamland Fire Centennial," and "Coney Island Bathhouses: A Lost Culture." In 2012, we presented the first solo show by local photographer Abe Feinstein, who has been documenting his neighborhood for more than 50 years.
2013 saw our recovery from Hurricane Sandy and the opening of two new exhibits: "The Curious Playland Arcade Art of Larry Millard" displayed several salvaged Millard murals as well as a full photo documentation of his work from the walls of the Playland building, which was demolished in February. We also celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Vourderis family's operation of the Wonder Wheel with a photographic history of the famous landmark.
"The Curious Playland Arcade Art of Larry Millard" Exhibit, 2013
In August, the 3rd Annual History Day presented by Deno's Wonder Wheel Park and the Coney Island History Project was the inaugural event at the new Dreamland Plaza on West 12th Street. The free event included a Coney Island history trivia contest, an interactive magic show, and performances by organ grinders from the Automatic Musical Instrument Collectors Association (AMICA) and the Carousel Organ Association of America (COAA) as well as the opportunity for visitors to hand crank the organs.
Prof. Phineas Feelgood's World of Magic at History Day, Dreamland Plaza, August 2013
History Project director Charles Denson's Sandy documentary "The Storm" premiered at the Coney Island Film Festival in September and was screened at the Brooklyn Art Council's Scene: Brooklyn Film Series commemorating the 1st anniversary of Sandy. In October, the New York State Marine Education Association (NYSMEA) presented the Herman Melville Literary Award to Charles Denson for his contributions to marine education through the Coney Island History Project, his books and his preservation efforts for Coney Island Creek.
A series of informational plaques designed and created by Charles Denson were installed on the creek side of Kaiser Park, 2012
The 2014 season promises to be our most exciting yet. In late December our proposal for the return of the Astroland Rocket was approved by the City and we're now planning an extensive exhibit about the rocket and space-themed Coney attractions of the past. Ownership of the historic Rocket will be transferred to the History Project and the Vourderis family will provide a permanent home for it in Deno's Wonder Wheel Park.
Coney Island: The "Star Flyer" Rocket debuted in Astroland in 1962
From the balloons, blimps and biplanes of the early days of aviation to the Astroland-sponsored airshows by the Thunderbirds, Golden Knights and Blue Angels, flight demonstrations have drawn crowds to Coney Island.The Rocket exhibit will...(read more)
The Coney Island History Project has answered the City's RFP and submitted a proposal to bring the Astroland Rocket back to Coney Island. If our proposal is accepted we will assume ownership of the Rocket and plan to move it to a location near our exhibit center in Deno's Wonder Wheel Park provided by the park's owners, Steve and Dennis Vourderis. History Project co-founder and Astroland owner Carol Albert has offered to pay the cost of moving the Rocket back to Coney Island.
If the rocket comes back to the location we have chosen, the restoration of the ride would be overseen by Steve Vourderis and it would become an educational exhibit designed by History Project director Charles Denson. Stacy and Steve Vourderis, who spearheaded the park's annual History Day, hope to make the Rocket the centerpiece of next year's celebration.
When Astroland was closing, the Albert family had long planned to preserve the Astroland Rocket by donating it to the Coney Island History Project, the not-for-profit organization they founded in 2004. CIHP director Charles Denson is the author of Coney Island and Astroland, which uses primary sources to tell the history of the park, and the curator of the CIHP exhibit "The Astroland Archives Photography Exhibit: Back to the Future.” Mr. Denson would have liked to keep the Rocket as an exhibit, but at the time the History Project’s exhibition center was under the Cyclone roller coaster and did not have parking space for a rocket.
The Rocket was the first ride at Astroland and it defined the park’s space age theme when it opened in 1962. As one of the first of the “imaginary” space voyage simulators constructed during the Space Race, The attraction showed simulator films of “rocket rides” while the chassis “rocked” its viewers to outer space. The Ride, which has 26 seats, lasted about three minutes, the length of the film. Originally built as the “Star Flyer,” the Astroland Rocket later sat atop the boardwalk restaurant Gregory and Paul’s.
In 1928, when John F. Kennedy was a young boy living with his family in the Bronx (the Riverdale section, not the South Bronx), his father, Joe, was forming RKO studios and producing a movie called "Coney Island. " The flick starred silent picture queen Lois Wilson and was directed by Ralph Ince.
The motion picture industry had recently moved from Brooklyn (Vitagraph Studios in Midwood) to Hollywood and most of the Coney scenes were shot in Los Angeles. Promotion for the film described it as the story of " a young woman swept up in the romantic magic of America's favorite fun destination. . . "
Joseph P. Kennedy sold his movie studios in the early 1930s, went into the liquor business, and then into politics as President Roosevelt's ambassador to Great Britain. The rest is history.