After the city announced on Friday that it had selected an operator for the Forest Park carousel, the doors to the merry-go-round in Woodhaven have been flung open, paint cans linger outside its periphery and men in dusty work boots wind through the maze of wooden animals that have been entertaining children —and all those young at heart —for more than a century.
The sight of those from New York Carousel Entertainment,the group tapped to run the merry-go-round, preparing the ride to open on Memorial Day weekend has thrilled community activists who having been fighting to reopen the historic carousel for more than three years.
The city Parks Department also selected NYCE to run the carousel at Flushing Meadows Corona Park, which has not operated since last fall.
“The carousel is part of our community’s identity,” Woodhaven Residents Block Association President Ed Wendell said. “We couldn’t be happier that the Parks Department has done the right thing, something we’ve requested for years, and gotten a deal done so that our community can enjoy it again. The ride is a beautiful work of art, an historic specimen that embodies our community’s heritage, and a form of entertainment that has amused generations of Woodhaven residents. We’re overjoyed to have it back.”
The Woodhaven carousel has been closed since 2008, and the city has since issued four requests for its operation.
The structure, built in 1903, holds some of the last surviving creations of master wood-carver Daniel Carl Muller, including 49 sculpted horses, a lion, a tiger, a deer and two chariots. There is also a carousel band organ.
Additionally, the company will run a snack bar next to the facility.
“For a long time, I’ve said that our carousel is the jewel of Forest Park and a treasure that deserves better than the treatment it has received the last few years,” said Maria Thomson, executive director of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation. “Finally, we have a concessionaire who promises to restore it to its former glory.”
Ara Chekmayan, a NYCE spokesman who grew up in Maspeth and now lives in Middle Village, called the company “a group of people who are enthusiasts of the amusement industry.”
“Carousels are becoming rarer and rarer,” Chekmayan said. “They’re pieces of history. The horses are wooden, carved figures —it’s a lost art. If we don’t maintain these now for future generations, they’ll be lost forever.”
Chekmayan said while the company should have the carousels up and running for Memorial Day weekend, refurbishment, particularly of the Forest Park site, will continue.
“They’ve already started to sand the floor, repaint the fences and spruce it up for the opening,” he said. “The amount of time and the amount of people they have, it’s a pretty big undertaking.”
Once it opens on Memorial Day weekend, the carousel is expected to be open to the public daily. The cost per ride will be no more than $3, according to NYCE.
The company has launched a website with information about the Forest Park and Flushing Meadows carousels, nycarousel.com.