“We are very, very happy. It’s like an old friend’s come home,” said Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association and the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society. “The carousel is part of our community’s identity. 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 new concessionaire is New York Carousel Entertainment, LLC. According to the Parks Department, the company runs other carousels around the country.
The company will be responsible for operating the Forest Park and the Flushing Meadows Corona Park carousels.
A Parks spokesman said that the department is still negotiating the final terms of the license agreement, but noted that New York Carousel Entertainment was picked because they were highly rated.
The spokesman also said that the city has given the company a work permit which allows them to clean up both sites and conduct any maintenance needed. The company began working on the Flushing Meadows carousel on Friday, and will work on the Forest Park carousel this week.
The Parks spokesman said that as part of the agreement, the concessionaire is also expected to build separate amusement rides near to the carousel’s space.
The news of the carousel’s reopening is particularly welcomed by those who have fought to get it up and running again since its 2008 closing – a result of then-operator New York One neglecting to take care of he carousel and letting its contract with the city expire.
Many in the area were afraid that the carousel would be broken down and relocated to another state or sold in pieces.
“This is a real victory – not just for the people of Woodhaven, but for all of New York City,” said Maria Thomson, executive director of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation. “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. Finally, we have a concessionaire who promises to restore it to its former glory.”
The Forest Park carousel was built in 1903 and is the creation of German immigrant Daniel Carl Muller, a sculptor who carved out 49 horses, two chariots, a tiger and other animals on the merry-go-round.
Four requests for proposals (RFP) were issued by the Parks Department in recent months looking for an interested party.
Many Woodhaven residents were beginning to grow despondent after several unsuccessful attempts by the city to find a concessionaire, but Wendell said that throughout the process residents have grown to appreciate the merry-go-round now more than ever.
“They really realized how precious it was,” he said. “It’s always been a part of this neighborhood for as long as anyone can remember. Now I can’t wait to be there to see the first people get on the ride.”