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Flatbush + Main Episode 33: Queer Coney Island

By Julie Golia

Posted on April 4, 2019

In Episode 33 of Brooklyn Historical Society’s podcast Flatbush + Main, co-hosts Zaheer Ali and Julie Golia explore Coney Island’s queer history.

Guest Hugh Ryan joins Julie and Zaheer this episode. Hugh is the author of the new book, When Brooklyn Was Queer, and the co-curator, with Avram Finkelstein, of BHS’s newest exhibition, On the (Queer) Waterfront.


02:34 Histories and Ideas
20:39 Into the Archives
39:09 Voices of Brooklyn

For complete show notes, go to

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Segment 1: Histories and Ideas

In this segment, Zaheer, Julie, and Hugh explore the history of Coney Island through the lens of queer history. Hugh highlights the ways that Coney Island, with its public baths, amusement parks, and attractions, was an ideal place for queer communities to thrive and for people to push the boundaries of traditional sexuality. The three also discuss how the city’s social and economic transformations in the 1950s and 1960s let to the decline of Coney Island as a queer haven.

Segment 2: Into the Archives

Julie, Zaheer, and Hugh examine Coney Island’s decline and rebirth as a center of queer life through the lens of photography. Amalyzing images by photographers Anders Goldfarb and Lucille Fornasieri Gold, they discuss the destruction of institutions like Stauch’s Baths, and the regeneration of queer experience through Coney Island’s famous Mermaid Parade, launched in 1983.

You can look at more photographs by Goldfarb and Gold in BHS’s online gallery.

Segment 3: Voices of Brooklyn

In this segment, Zaheer, Julie, and Hugh listen to selections from an oral history of Mabel Hampton taken by the Lesbian Herstory Archives. You can listen to several different interviews with Mabel Hampton on the LHA’s website.

Segment 4: Endorsements

This has been a busy few weeks at BHS – we just launched our new website (check it out)! As we’ve ironed out the kinks of our new system, we posted this episode later than planned, so some of the endorsements we made when we recorded have already passed.

That said, everyone should come to the event endorsed by Hugh. On Monday, April 15, BHS will host “George Chauncey on Gay Male Culture in Post-War NYC.” George Chauncey’s trailblazing book Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940, shattered the myth that before the 1960s gay life existed only in the closet. In this presentation, Chauncey, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University, picks up where he left off, examining NYC’s post-war gay culture and politics. The event starts at 6:30, and tickets are $10 for general admission, $5 for members. You can purchase tickets here.

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