Saturday, June 5, 2010

Forest Park Carousel Remains Shut Down by Lisa Fogarty - Queens Chronicle

Read original...

Although the Forest Park Carousel remained closed on Memorial Day weekend, the Department of Parks and Recreation says it is in negotiations with a new vendor. FILE PHOTO

As always, Forest Park offered residents just about every summertime park fix needed to ensure a great Memorial Day weekend, including a bevy of hiking trails, softball fields, tennis courts, golf and enough grassy knolls to accommodate a borough full of daydreamers.

But those more familiar with the park may have noticed something missing. For the third year in a row, Forest Park’s famed carousel failed to take its customary first spin on Memorial Day weekend, leaving many to wonder what the status is of the iconic merry-go-round.

The Department of Parks and Recreation has been searching for a vendor to run the carousel since its former operator, New York One LLC, let its contract expire.

Some community leaders bemoaned what they called the old vendor’s lack of attention to maintenance, saying the attraction was allowed to fall into disrepair. A spokesperson for the Parks Department confirmed that the city is currently in negotiations with a new concessionaire, but that it can not release the operator’s name until the contract is finalized.

Maria Thomson, executive director of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corp., said she has heard the vendor may be the same one vying to run the Central Park carousel — which was also run by New York One until this year, when the city reportedly terminated its contract. A permanent vendor for the Central Park merry-go-round has yet to be announced, but Trump Enterprises has reportedly stepped in to run it during the spring and summer months. The Parks Department would not confirm whether there was a possibility Trump would run the Forest Park carousel.

“The last I heard it is supposed to open in June,” Thomson said. “It will be good to have a good vendor who can restore the carousel so it looks like it used to. It used to be a destination for the evening. It’s the jewel of Forest Park.”

This isn’t the first time activists’ efforts to restore the carousel have hit a snag. The current fixture is the second to be built in Forest Park. The park’s first merry-go-round stood from 1912 until 1966, but was damaged in a fire. Although it was replaced in 1972, it suffered years of neglect and was eventually shuttered in 1985. Thanks to Marvin Sylvor, owner of Fabricon Design Group, the carousel was resurrected a third time and re-opened in 1989. Fabricon also discovered the 1903 structure was one of only two Daniel C. Muller and Brothers carousels left in the country — lending it a veritable badge of honor among carousel enthusiasts.

Each individually carved horse, designed in the realistic, military style that defined Muller’s creations, is said to be worth between $150,000 and $200,000. Thomson and others, including City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) have been working for years to convince the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to landmark the carousel, which would ensure it could not be destroyed.

In 1998, the LPC turned down the request, saying the structure surrounding it, which was built in 1973, was not old enough to qualify for landmark status. Activists again petitioned the LPC a few years ago, but their requests continue to be denied, Thomson said.

“I just sent in another paper, but have heard nothing yet,” Thomson said. “It seems they’re very reluctant. But the carousel is priceless and it should be landmarked.”

In addition to landmarking status, Thomson says she would like to see the carousel enclosed and used as a year-round venue. She says a restaurant and new refreshment area should be added, as well as tables with umbrellas, professional-looking workers, a newly constructed and painted fence and portable toilets, which she called a necessity because of all of the children who play in the area.