Saturday, November 27, 2010

Woodhaven Residents Want Carousel Repaired by Joe Anuta -

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Some Woodhaven residents would like the Forest Park Carousel to be restored to its former glory (inset). Photo by Christina Santucci
Woodhaven residents are calling on the city to use a monetary gift from a film company to restore a historic carousel in Forest Park, but the city has other plans.

During the week of Nov. 6, film crews working with Twentieth Century Fox Productions shot a scene for “The Sitter” on the 120-year-old carousel located in the park. After the shoot, the company made a donation to the city Parks Department, but citizens want to know where the money will go and if it will be used to restore the relic.

“My preference would be to see that the money be put aside for the carousel,” said Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Block Association. “If it’s not going to the carousel, I would like to know what [the city] sees as more important.”

The carousel in question was used for a scene in the movie, but was first purchased by the city around 1910, according to Wendell. The ride features intricate, hand-carved horses, deer and other animals that spin around on a vintage frame. In recent years, it has been run by private individuals or concessionaires, who try to turn a profit. But for the last two years, the carousel has been without an operator and has fallen into disuse.

“The last couple of vendors haven’t made any money,” Wendell said.

He and other members of the community would like to see the city open the carousel in some capacity. For example, volunteers could operate it once a month.

“Ideally, if they can’t get a vendor to open it up, I don’t see any problem with opening it periodically,” Wendell said.

But one barrier to reopening the ride is the restoration and maintenance of the century-old device, replete with antique gears and parts, according to other community officials.

“[The city] is still looking for a concessionaire,” said Mary Ann Carey, district manager for Community Board 9. “The problem is that they aren’t familiar with the mechanism.”

Carey said that reopening the carousel is a priority for the board, but the division of the Parks Department that received the money, the Forest Park Trust, is not to blame for not allocating restoration funds.

“The funds were given to the trust,” she said. “That’s a city of New York agency. Not a Queens agency.”

In addition, Carey added that prior to shooting, film crews restored all the exterior lighting to the carousel and cleaned out piles of garbage from its interior.

Twentieth Century Fox could not be reached for comment, but a representative for the Parks Department said that the department typically receives gifts from film production companies ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars — although out of respect for Fox, declined to specify the amount in this case.

The representative also said that the money will be used to fund supplies, programming and minor repairs throughout Forest Park, adding that the carousel’s fence will be replaced by decorative steel through a $200,000 grant from the mayor. But improvements to the carousel itself will be the responsibility of the next concessionaire.