The reopening of the Forest Park carousel last Thursday was a joyous moment for people of all ages, who flocked from throughout the borough to take a spin on the merry-go-round that has been a mainstay in Woodhaven for decades.
The 109-year-old carousel, which was brought to Forest Park in the 1970s to replace another one that had burned down, was shuttered in 2008. After a series of petitions and campaigning from block associations, civic groups, residents and elected officials, the carousel’s doors have once again been flung open.
“We have to give credit to people of the community,” state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) said at last Thursday’s event celebrating the re-opening. “When people of the community cry out with one voice and the government listens, it’s a great snapshot of how government should work.”
Those who attended the opening said the carousel has a special and universal appeal, as it succeeds in connecting generations that have gone for countless spins on the merry-go-round as children —and, often, as adults as well.
Addabbo said he used to go to the carousel as a child with his father. Now, he plans to bring his two daughters, Arianna and Alexis, to share the same memories.
Pam Steffens, 69, a Woodhaven resident, came to the re-opening event with her husband, and said it was a very emotional day for them as they reminisced about how they used to bring their son there decades ago.
“It’s long been referred to as the ‘jewel of Woodhaven,’” she said. “This is a part of our history and it’s a proud day for us Woodhavenites.”
Steffens was excited to see the children of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran School take the first ride on the newly opened carousel.
“It’s wonderful to see the smiles on the children’s faces,” she said. “In today’s computer world, little things like this matter.”
The carousel is open thanks to the effort of the residents, the city’s Parks Department and NY Carousel Entertainment — the ride’s city-selected operator.
“It’s exciting and nerve-wracking to be a part of this,” said Ara Chekmayan, a spokesman for NY Carousel Entertainment who grew up in Woodhaven. “It’s phenomenal to be connected to a carousel that’s over 100 years old — it’s a unique part of history that allows us to connect with the past and connect with a simpler time.”
NY Carousel Entertainment plans to install a concession stand at the Forest Park location and will also be operating the carousel at Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
The structure is one of the last two remaining Daniel Carl Muller handcrafted carousels. It was built in 1903 and includes two handcarved chariots, a lion, a tiger, a deer and 49 horses.
The carousel will be open on the weekends from 11 a.m. to sunset through the end of June. Starting in July, the carousel will be open seven days a week until Labor Day.