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Queens Chronicle

A step closer to spinning?

City, nonprofit discuss group operating carousel

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Posted: Thursday, December 1, 2011 12:00 pm | Updated: 1:01 pm, Thu Dec 8, 2011.

While the fate of the Forest Park carousel is still up in the air, residents may be one step closer to seeing the beloved merry-go-round spinning once again after a meeting with Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven), an area nonprofit and the Parks Department last week.

Miller met with parks officials and representatives from Independence Residences Inc., a nonprofit that assists individuals with physical and mental disabilities, to discuss IRI’s interest in operating the carousel that was built in 1903 by master wood-carver Daniel Carl Muller.

“They’re not saying no, and they’re letting IRI gather things that are needed, like funding,” Miller said. “But they also want to go forward with the request for proposals.”

One of only five carousels in the city, the Forest Park ride was operated by New York One until 2008, when the company let its contract lapse. The city has since issued three requests for proposals, with the final one going out in mid-April.

No one submitted proposals for the city’s first two RFPs, but officials said they did receive answers to applications after the most recent one. Still, the city said it found no “suitable” companies to run the merry-go-round.

Parks spokeswoman Trish Bertuccio said last month that the department intends to re-release an RFP and will “conduct extensive outreach to find a suitable proposer.”

IRI did not return a request for comment about operating the carousel, though Miller said the group’s officials expressed interest in running it and said they would reinvest money made from the carousel into renovating the structure, and providing other community benefits. The nonprofit told Miller it would be beneficial for the group because it could teach disabled residents to do such jobs as taking tickets.

Before the city will seriously entertain the IRI’s offer to run the merry-go-round, Miller said the nonprofit will have to come up with about $150,000 for renovation work.

“The city of New York owns the carousel, and they don’t want to landmark it; they don’t want to do anything with it,” said Maria Thomson, a civic activist who has long advocated for the structure to be preserved. “They should make the initial investment to refurbish the area and make it look good before they go out and get a bid. It’s going to take a lot of money, and people don’t have that kind of money to invest.”

Miller said whatever happens with the operator, he hopes the carousel is up and running soon.

“I can remember riding the carousel as a kid,” Miller said. “You’d look forward to a Saturday or Sunday when you’d go up to the park and the carousel. It’s something we need here. This is an opportunity to bring people back to Forest Park, to make it useful in another way that hasn’t been done in a couple years.”

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