Sunday, May 24, 2009

Historic Forest Park Carousel Won't Be Open on Memorial Day by Lisa L. Colangelo - NY Daily News

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Project manager Evan George (l.) and assistant architect Christopher Farnum (r.) show potential bidders Forest Park Carousel at Woodhaven Blvd. and Myrtle Ave.
Farriella for News

For the first time in almost two decades, the historic Forest Park Carousel will be shuttered on Memorial Day weekend.

The unofficial start of summer has customarily also served as opening day for the 49 hand-carved horses, lions, tigers, deer and chariots.

Parks Department officials said they are still working to find a concessionaire to run the rare carousel, which dates to 1903.

"It's frustrating to say the least," said Ivan Mrakovcic, a member of Community Board 9 and founding member of the Richmond Hill Historical Society. "We certainly want someone there who cares about the carousel, not just someone who will use it as a cash cow - or a cash horse."

The previous vendor, New York One LLC, let its contract expire. The company, which holds several city parks concessions, including carousels in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and Central Park as well as pushcarts, was no longer interested in running the Forest Park site.

Parks officials said Wednesday they were still reviewing proposals from potential operators.

Experts have called the Forest Park Carousel a rare jewel. It is believed to be one of the last remaining works of master woodcarver Daniel Carl Muller.

The carousel came to the park in 1972 to replace one that burned down in 1966. It fell into disrepair over the years. In 1989, the carousel reopened after receiving a meticulous face-lift by artist Marvin Sylvor.

While historically significant, the carousel has not been a moneymaker, and it has changed operators several times.

Mrakovcic said he was disappointed with the way the last concessionaire ran the carousel.

"I took my kids there and I was embarrassed," he said. "They only rolled up a few of the gates, so the carousel was in the dark. I can't understand why there isn't more oversight."

Mrakovcic said the city should operate the carousel themselves until they make a decision.

"For the short term, find a way to open it up," he said. "And then in the long term, find someone responsible."

Mary Ann Carey, district manager of Community Board 9, said she is hopeful the carousel will be open by the July 4 holiday weekend.

"The Parks Department is working diligently," she said. "We really need someone with ingenuity and ideas. It's such a beautiful carousel and no one knows its there."