Big plans for little museum

The Brooklyn Paper
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Now here’s a perfect spot for a museum!

This small storefront — so close to the Cyclone rollercoaster that it brings to mind that house in Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall” — is being transformed into a home base for the Coney Island History Project.

“Maybe there’s a bit of noise, but you couldn’t have a better location in all of Coney Island!” said Charles Denson, the writer-journalist-Coney native who is behind the project.

“The screaming from the Cyclone is just ambient noise as far as I’m concerned.”

The museum’s first exhibition, “Land Grab,” traces development at the so-called “world’s playground” from 1823 until today’s condo-and-amusement-park proposal by Thor Equities

It’ll feature the oldest-known relic of the area’s illustrious history: a piece of the original tollhouse that collected fees from carriage drivers as they used the bridge over Coney Island Creek.

But the goal of the new center isn’t just re-examining Coney Island’s supposed glory days of the turn of the (last) century. Denson, the author of “Coney Island: Lost and Found,” hopes the institution will attract attention to all the changes — not all of them good, he says — that are coming.

“Once the public understands what’s at stake and who the developers are, they’ll be less likely to support dubious plans,” he said, referring to the Thor Equities proposal.

Like many natives of the area, Denson wants Coney to be reborn, but opposes Thor’s plan, which would put hundreds of units of housing cheek-by-jowl with the roller coasters and other scream-inducing attractions.

Politics, though, will mostly take a back seat to the historic relics, including decades of photographs of Coney Island taken from balloons, planes and satellites.

“The goal is to preserve history,” said Denson. —Gersh Kuntzman

Coney Island History Project (Surf Avenue at West 10th Street) will open on May 31. Call (718) 265-2100 or visit for information.

Updated 4:28 pm, July 9, 2018
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