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Coney Island History Project Tries To Restore Memorabilia After Sandy

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Part of Coney Island's charm is its long history, but some of that history was wiped by Hurricane Sandy. Now, one Brooklynite who's been collecting Coney Island memorabilia for decades is trying to restore what he can. NY1's Jeanine Ramirez filed the following report.

Charles Denson picks up a ruined 1930s art deco camera. It was part of an antique cameras exhibit on display at the Coney Island History Project until Hurricane Sandy came roaring through.

"As you can see, the cameras didn't fare well," he said. "We had daguerreotypes, old daguerreotypes from Coney Island. Some of these were from my personal collection. They were destroyed. It's very hard to replace things like this."

The exhibition center sits under the landmark Wonder Wheel. In preparation for Sandy, Denson put many of his collectibles on high shelves and lined up sand bags, but it wasn't enough.

"The force of the water was so surprising," he said. "It came in through a locked metal gate, through closed doors, burst in, toppled everything into the water. So to come back and see all of this equipment and all of our files and our records floating in water, it was unimaginable."

NY1 featured the exhibition space last year. After Sandy, the Steeplechase horse survived, but an old amusement ride car didn't.

"This upholstery can't be saved, and obviously, the paint is coming off," Denson said. "We're trying our best to save it."

Photographs are destroyed. So are paintings.

"It's the salt water and the mud," Denson said. "We had about four inches of mud in here that was like jelly. It sticks to everything. It's very hard, if you're trying to clean a painting, to get the mud off and try to preserve the painting underneath it."

Like many who suffered losses by Sandy, Denson vows to rebuild and hopes to reopen his space in time for the 2013 season.

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