Saturday, April 23, 2011

Liu: Queens Carousels Mismanaged by Vendor by Anna Gustafson -Queens Chronicle

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City officials have issued a Request for Proposal from vendors who want to run the Forest Park and Flushing Meadows carousels.FILE PHOTO
After an audit by city Comptroller John Liu found the company that ran the Forest Park carousel until 2008 wildly mismanaged it, community leaders are calling on a group that will take over the ride to honor its more than 100 years of history.

“I hope we get someone who will do the right thing for the carousel,” Community Board 9 District Manager Mary Ann Carey said. “We really need to do something with that carousel. It’s such a wonderful piece of artwork, and it shouldn’t just be standing there.”

New York One operated the Forest Park merry-go-round until 2008, when the company let its contract lapse. The city has since issued three requests for proposals for a group to run the carousel, with the final RFP being issued last week by the Parks Department. No one submitted proposals in response to the first two RFPs, but city officials are hoping things will be different this time around because they are also asking interested parties to operate the Flushing Meadows Park carousel.

Liu said in an audit released last week that New York One, which currently manages the carousel in Flushing Meadows Park and ran another in Central Park, overcharged customers, maintained little to no records of its cash transactions and violated health codes.

“Our kids want to go for a spin on the merry-go-round, but taxpayers don’t want to be taken for a ride,” Liu said in a prepared statement. “This contractor needs to straighten itself out. The Parks Department needs to monitor the company to ensure taxpayers are getting their due or find someone who is up to the job.”
New York One did not answer requests for comment, though Liu’s office said the company disagreed with many of the audit’s findings.

According to the audit, the operator owes the city $454,325 for restoration and repairs that need to be made to the carousels at Forest and Central parks.
Auditors found the operator charged more than Parks Department guidelines for admissions, food and souvenirs at the Flushing Meadows site, and they said the operator should spend $110,000 on capital improvements on that carousel.

While the Forest Park and Flushing Meadows carousels did not have a makeshift toilet in the go-round’s mechanical room that used buckets and a funnel, as auditors said the one in Central Park did, there were a variety of health issues the report found at the two sites.
Liu’s office said food carts at the Forest Park and Flushing Meadows sites were not properly licensed by the Health Department, and auditors said the operator did not “maintain the three carousel’s pushcarts, snack bars and surrounding areas in a safe and sanitary manner.”

Built in 1903, the Forest Park carousel has some of the last surviving creations of master wood carver Daniel Carl Muller.

It contains 49 sculpted horses, a lion, a tiger, a deer and two chariots. There is also a carousel band organ.

There are just five city parks that operate carousels — Forest Park, Flushing Meadows, Central Park, Prospect Park in Brooklyn and Staten Island’s Willowbrook Park.

“It’s very bad that the Parks Department hasn't gotten it open again sooner,” said civic activist David Quintana. “It’s a true work of art. Those carousel horses were done by a master craftsman, and now it’s closed to the public.”

The Parks Department will give tours of the two Queens sites for interested vendors on April 27.

Proposals are due May 13.

Visit for Liu’s full report.