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Queens Chronicle

Forest Park Carousel is now a city landmark

LPC votes unanimously for status; Council, City Planning will weigh in

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Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013 10:30 am

The city Landmarks Preservation Council voted 8-0 to give the century-old Forest Park Carousel official landmark status on Tuesday, a move that excited Woodhaven civic leaders who have fought for years to protect the amusement.

“It’s wonderful, just wonderful news,” said Maria Thomson, executive director of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation. “It comes after so many years of hard work. It’s just wonderful that now it’s a reality and now the carousel is saved forever. Now it will be cheered for, preserved, and it will be here long after we’re not.”

Lisi de Bourbon, the spokeswoman for the LPC, said the status was in effect as of Tuesday.

“This is tremendous news,” said Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association. “The Forest Park Carousel means so much to countless residents in Woodhaven and across the city. This designation is long overdue, but now that it’s here, we’re thrilled. With the carousel landmarked, we know it will be around for posterity, which is exactly how it should be.”

The move comes only two years after many feared the removal — or worse, demolition — of the historic carousel. It closed in 2009 after the previous operator’s contract with the city lapsed and remained shuttered until a new company, New York Carousel, entered into a contract with the Parks Department and reopened it last May. City Comptroller John Liu later released a report that found the previous operator — New York One — failed to adequately maintain the carousel with the funds they received.

“Designating the Forest Park Carousel is a tremendous win for our community that once feared it may never spin again,” said Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), who spoke at the LPC’s public hearing on landmark status for the ride, in a statement. “Preserving our history strengthens our neighborhoods, and today’s decision by the LPC ensures this historic carousel, carved more than 100 years ago, will remain a beloved attraction in Forest Park for future generations. I was proud to work with LPC and community advocates on this important issue.”

Other elected officials responded to the news Wednesday. Borough President Helen Marshall said the LPC made the “right decision.”

“The Forest Park Carousel is more than just a children’s ride, it’s a work of art,” she said. “I am glad to see that, with the commission’s decision, it will still be around for years to come.”

State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) said the decision will allow future generations to enjoy the carousel.

“The people spoke out and the City heard them,” he said “Now, there is a strong possibility that the carousel my father brought me to — and that I now bring my children to — will even be enjoyed by their own children.”

Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) praised the community leaders who helped make it happen.

“Today’s positive vote by the LPC is the first step in permanently landmarking the hand-carved treasure, the Forest Park Carousel, a neighborhood icon,” he said. “I want to thank Maria Thomson; Ed Wendell and my colleague in government, Councilwoman Crowley for their steadfast commitment for the historical preservation of the Forest Park Carousel so that future generations of ‘riders’ can appreciate a piece of our community’s history.”

Alexander Blenkinsopp, communications director for the WRBA and a member of Community Board 9, said the carousel was the perfect example of a city site that deserved to be a landmark.

“Even when I was a young boy, I knew the carousel was special. I’m elated that the Landmarks Preservation Commission agrees,” the lifelong Woodhaven resident said. “The Landmarks Law is meant to safeguard our city’s irreplaceable treasures. In this case, the law worked exactly as it should.”

The status still has to be reviewed by the Department of City Planning and the City Council, but Eric Yun, spokesman for Crowley, said that shouldn’t be a big issue since there is not any opposition.

During the LPC’s hearing last month, nobody present spoke in opposition to the landmarking.

New York Carousel President Ami Abramson said earlier this year that he did not oppose landmarking, but had concerns over what it would mean for his company’s plans for the amusement and the site. His company later met with the LPC over the issues.

The carousel was originally built in 1903 and the carvings were designed by Daniel Mueller, who built a number of carousels around the turn of the century. It was located in Dracut, Mass. until it was moved to Forest Park in 1972 to replace one destroyed by fire six years earlier. It was completely renovated in 1988.

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