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Landmarking Carousel Could Make Operating Ride Difficult, Some Say

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | February 5, 2013 1:07pm

QUEENS — The historic Forest Park Carousel, which reopened last May after years of neglect, may become a city landmark, although the current operator is worried that the designation might interfere with his ability to maintain it.

The attraction, which is more than 100 years old, has been in the park since the 1970s. After a five-year hiatus for repairs, the ride reopened last summer.

The hand-carved carousel, with its 36 jumping horses and 13 standing horses, has been drawing many families since the new operator, NY Carousel, took over last summer.

The company, which also operates the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park carousel, signed a 15-year lease with the city to operate the ride and plans to add more attractions to the area, Abramson said.

Ami Abramson, director of NY Carousel, said the attraction has been a big success and last year it sold about 30,000 rides.

"We are thrilled — we love serving the community," he said. "They [local residents] remember it as children and now they are coming back and bringing their children."

As first reported by Queens Chronicle, the carousel is currently under active consideration to become a landmark. 

"We are working closely with the Parks Department on a timeline for a public hearing," Heather McCracken, from the Landmarks Preservation Commission, said in a statement.

Community Board 9, along with City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, has been pushing for landmark status for the carousel for years, said Andrea Crawford, chairwoman of CB9.

"It would increase its visibility and show its importance to the city," Crawford said.

The original Forest Park carousel burned down in 1966. The current carousel was moved to Forest Park in 1973 from Massachusetts, where it had been carved in 1903.

Landmarks first received a request for evaluation of the carousel in 1989, McCracken said. 

But Abramson said no one has approached him about landmark status. He said he was not against landmarking, but he worried how the potential status change would affect the carousel's operations.

"We’ve committed a tremendous amount of capital already to the carousel and to the community," he said. He added that if there were problems with the ride in the future, he was worried that the landmark designation might prevent him from making fixes quickly.

For example, he said that during Hurricane Sandy a tree had fallen on the structure surrounding the carousel.

"We repaired it immediately," he said.

But working on landmark properties can be a lengthy process, because altering their exteriors requires a permit from the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

"We are not against landmarking," Abramson continued. "We do want to understand more — what it would mean in terms of being able to provide upkeep on the carousel and making it beautiful."

Ed Wendell, the president of the Woodhaven Residents' Block Association, said that his organization had been in favor of landmarking in the past, but wanted to make sure that the operator was not subjected to "restrictive guidelines of operating."

Asked whether granting landmark status to the carousel would affect its use, McCracken said that "the Landmarks Commission does not regulate use."

After a public hearing is held for the community, the Landmarks Preservation Commission will vote on the designation. The City Council has final approval.

Abramson said the carousel will reopen the week of March 20, when school spring break starts. The ride will continue to operate on weekends until Memorial Day Weekend, and then daily in the summertime.