2013-07-03 / Front Page

Forest Park Carousel Wins Designation As A Landmark

One of the many colorful creatures of the Forest Park Carousel which was first opened in 1903.
One of the many colorful creatures of the Forest Park Carousel which was first opened in 1903. The Landmarks Preservation Commission voted June 25 to designate the Forest Park Carousel a New York City landmark.  With the designation, the Forest Park Carousel will now indefinitely be required to be kept in good repair. The commission will now also have to approve any alteration, reconstruction, demolition or new construction that would impact the carousel.
The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA), Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall applauded this decision, which formally recognizes the carousel as the gem it is.
“This is tremendous news.  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,” said WRBA President Edward K. Wendell.  “With the carousel landmarked, we know it will be around for posterity, which is exactly how it should be.”
The WRBA submitted testimony to the commission urging the designation.  The testimony points out that the carousel is a beautiful work of art, a historic specimen that embodies our community’s heritage, and a form of entertainment that has amused generations of Woodhaven residents.
The Forest Park Carousel features a colorful menagerie of horses, tigers, and lions, including some of the last creations hand-carved by artist Daniel Carl Muller over a century ago.  Experts have acclaimed it as a rare specimen.  It is also decorated with beautiful paintings depicting settings in Woodhaven and the rest of Queens.
“Even when I was a young boy, I knew the carousel was special.  I’m elated that the Landmarks Preservation Commission agrees,” said Alex Blenkinsopp,  WRBA’s communications director.  “The Landmarks Law is meant to safeguard our city’s Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association Director of Communications Alex Blenkinsopp, riding the Forest Park Carousel as a five-year-old in 1989.
Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association Director of Communications Alex Blenkinsopp, riding the Forest Park Carousel as a five-year-old in 1989. irreplaceable treasures.  In this case, the law worked exactly as it should.  The carousel is here to stay, and we couldn’t be happier.”
The Block Association has a long track record of advocacy for the Forest Park Carousel.
The carousel was closed for several years in the 1980s and fell into disrepair. A refurbished version opened in 1989, but it closed in 2008 when the vendor operating it allowed its contract with the city to expire. Last year it reopened when the city Department of Parks and Recreation inked a deal with concessionaire New York Carousel Entertainment, to operate the carousel again.
One of WRBA’s concerns was that the designation might unduly restrict the ability of the concessionaire to operate and maintain the carousel.  But as described in WRBA’s testimony, these concerns were assuaged after New York Carousel—which has proved to be an excellent steward of the attraction—met with the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
The WRBA had fought hard to reopen the ride, taking such steps as working with elected representatives, writing letters to city officials, petitioning, organizing rallies of support in person and online, publicizing the cause in the media, and even creating a popular “Save the Forest Park Carousel” T-shirt.  With the Forest Park Carousel spinning again, the next logical step was to ensure it would be preserved through landmark status.
WRBA thanked its allies in the fight to landmark the carousel, including the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society (which partnered with WRBA on its testimony), the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation and Crowley.
Crowley, who long lobbied the LPC to designate the Forest Park Carousel, released the following statement when the LPC voted to landmark the carousel:
“Designating the Forest Park Carousel is a tremendous win for our community that once feared it may never spin again. 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.”
 Queens Borough President Helen Marshall praised the city Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) for the unanimous decision it made to grant a landmark designation to the Forest Park Carousel in Woodhaven.
“Designating the Forest Park Carousel as a landmark will help preserve this unique and historic children’s ride for future generations,” said Marshall following the commission’s unanimous vote.  “I commend the Landmarks Preservation Commission for making the right decision to bestow landmark status on this beautiful treasure.”
Marshall outlined her support for landmark status for the carousel in a letter sent earlier this month to Commission Chairman Robert B. Tierney. In her letter, Marshall noted that the carousel is one of just two surviving and intact carousels featuring figures created by legendary master carver Daniel Muller.
The two-tiered, three-row Forest Park Carousel is the first carousel and third amusement ride in the city to ever receive a landmark designation.
The Forest Park Carousel first opened in 1903 and has been at its current location since 1973, when it was moved from its original home in Massachusetts. Its hand-carved figures include 49 horses, a tiger, a lion, a deer and two chariots. It also has an ornate and authentic Ruth & Sohn band organ.  
“The Forest Park Carousel is more than just a children’s ride, it’s a work of art,” Marshall said. “I am glad to see that, with the Commission’s decision, it will still be around for years to come.”
State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. commended the Landmarks Preservation Commission vote to designate the Forest Park Carousel a city landmark: 
“The people spoke out and the city heard them. After so many years of going around in circles, like the carousel itself, I am grateful to all involved in getting this community treasure landmarked.  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.
“The original push for landmarking started years ago, when carousel lovers feared the priceless horses could be sold off,” said Assemblymember Michael Miller in a statement. “It is one of two known surviving carousels built by the Muller brothers.
“Today’s positive vote by the Landmarks Preservation Commission is the first step in permanently landmarking the hand-carved treasure, the Forest Park Carousel—a neighborhood icon,” said Miller.  “I want to thank Maria Thomson, executive director of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation, Mr. Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Block Association, and my colleague in government, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, for their steadfast commitment to the historical preservation of the Forest Park Carousel so that future generations of ‘riders’ can appreciate a piece of our community’s history.”
On August 9, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. there will be An Evening Ride on the Forest Park Carousel to End Alzheimer’s. Unlimited rides and face painting will be included for $10. New York Carousel will donate 100 precent of the proceeds to the Alzheimer’s Association. The event, which includes magic by Omar Olusion, a raffle and snacks, will be held rain or shine.

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