The historic Forest Park Carousel, which has survived fire, closure and bad management in the past, may finally be heading into a safer position than the tenuous one it lived under for decades.
The carousel, built in 1903, will be considered for landmark status after the city Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to schedule a public hearing on the proposal.
No date has been set yet for the public hearing, but the vote is considered the first step in an eventual landmark designation.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Maria Thomson, executive director of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation, who found out about the LPC’s vote at Tuesday’s Community Board 9 meeting. “We’ve been trying to get the carousel landmarked for over 20 years.”
Thomson explained that landmarking would ensure the carousel’s future and noted that it had been through a number of concessionaires, including the vendor previous to the current one — New York One LLC — who abandoned the merry-go-round in 2008. That vendor was later found to be neglecting it and the other carousel it ran in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, overcharging customers, violating health codes and keeping shoddy financial records, according to a 2011 audit by city Comptroller John Liu.
The carousel was closed from 2008 until its current operator, New York Carousel, took it over and reopened it last summer.
Ami Abramson of New York Carousel said the vendor is not opposed to the landmarking, but has questions about what it could mean to their plans for the carousel.
“I’d like to learn more about what the implications of landmarking will be,” he said. “I’m open to it and I believe landmarking is good for operations and for us in serving the community. But we want to know if it will inhibit us from investing money and labor in the carousel. Right now there are a lot of questions.”
New York Carousel reopened the ride last May and also runs the food booth and free children’s entertainment on the carousel’s grounds. Abramson said there are also plans to extend the attractions to the grassy areas between the carousel and Woodhaven Boulevard, but those ideas are still in the early stages.
Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) who represents much of Forest Park, has lobbied the LPC to put the carousel on its agenda.
“Landmark status will allow it to be maintained with funding and not place the responsibility on the vendor,” Thomson said. “This means the carousel will go on in perpetuity.”
Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, took a lead role in pushing the Parks Department to find a vendor for the carousel during its three-year closure. He said the idea of landmarking could prove to be attractive to the vendor.
“Giving it landmark status may make things a little more attractive than putting the costs of refurbishing it entirely on the vendor,” he said. “At the end of the day, we want what’s best for the carousel.”
Though the carousel was built in 1903, it did not come to Forest Park until the 1970s. It was destroyed by fire and closed for much of the 1980s before being renovated in 1989.