You Spin Me Right Round, Baby, Right Round Like a Carousel…

| March 7, 2012 4:00 AM video

The carousel at Forest Park is currently closed. That will soon change. Flickr/Tim Drivas

New Yorkers yearning for a magical ride on a painted horse (or bug) will soon have three times as many opportunities to fulfill their dreams. Fun loving adults and kids, celebrate the season of the horse (in the year of the dragon)!

The popular 100-year-old Forest Park carousel, which stopped spinning in 2008, will reopen this spring. The long-awaited SeaGlass carousel in Battery Park is slated to open this fall. And Coney Island’s B&B Carousell, which began entertaining kids and adults alike in 1919, will reopen in 2013 after a major restoration.

And let’s not forget the extremely popular Jane’s Carousel, which opened in Brooklyn Bridge Park in September.

“We are very passionate about carousels!” said John Krawchuk, director of Historic Preservation at the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Some might say we’re a city obsessed.

At the end of last year, the Parks Department released two requests for proposals for the maintenance and operation of three of the city’s four vintage carousels. The first proposal was for the B&B Carousell, and the second was for the carousel at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and another at Forest Park, both in Queens (the Flushing Meadows carousel began spinning in 1964, when it opened at the World’s Fair). According to city officials, proposals have been received for both, and the winning bidders will be announced soon.

The city bought the historic B&B Carousell from the previous owners, the McCullough Family, who had owned it for 27 years. It is the only carousel in New York that still features a brass ring machine. YouTube/NYCParksDepartment

In New York City, there are 12 carousels in total, five of which are vintage and date back to the early 20th century. For Krawchuk, whose job it is to make sure the carousels run by the Parks Department are historically preserved, keeping them running is a top priority.

“Anyone that knows New York City, and has been to Coney Island, has probably rode the B&B,” he said. “The carousels bring people back. It’s nostalgia.”

The B&B Carousell, pictured here in 2003, is a Coney Island staple. It is being restored by the city and will reopen at Coney Island in 2013. Flickr/Spatch

But what is that je ne sais quoi that carousels seem to have? According to Jane Walentas of Jane’s Carousel, who sunk her own money into restoring and operating (for now) the carousel in Brooklyn Bridge Park, it’s the pure pleasure of the experience.

“There’s a fantasy element about it — all the lights and the music and even the horse idea. Getting on a horse and galloping around. There’s a romance about it,” she said.

And as if we didn’t have reason enough to jump on a wooden horse, the Prospect Park carousel celebrates its 100-year anniversary this summer. The season begins on March 31.

Here’s a list of New York City’s operating — or soon-to-be operating — carousels:

  • Carousel for all Children at Willowbrook Park, The Greenbelt, Staten Island
    This extremely popular merry-go-round, built in 1999, is handicap accessible. Open May – October.
  • The Carousel in Prospect Park, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn
    This vintage carousel features 56 carved animals. It opened in Coney Island first and was moved to Prospect Park in 1952. Open April – June.
  • Bug Carousel, Bronx Zoo
    A ride on the bug carousel is almost like a science experiment! Great for kids. Open year-round.
  • Friedsam Memorial Carousel, Central Park, Manhattan
    A carousel has been in Central Park since 1871, and the one you see today, the fourth, has been there since 1950. The carousel was closed briefly in 2010 before Donald Trump became its steward. Open daily April – October, and weekends November – March.

The carousel in Flushing Meadows Park is one of the city's vintage carousels. It is a particularly large carousel, and is a combination of two carousels from 1903 and 1908. Photo courtesy of NYC Parks.

  • Flushing Meadows Carousel, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens
    This carousel came to Flushing Meadows for the World’s Fair in 1964 and has been there ever since. Open April – October.
  • Le Carrousel, Bryant Park, Manhattan
    This petite carousel spins slowly to French cabaret music and features 14 animals — not just horses. Open year-round.
  • Pier 62 Carousel, Hudson River State Park, at 22nd Street, Manhattan
    This waterfront merry-go-round opened in May 2010 and features 33 hand-carved wooden animal figures native to the area. Open year-round.
  • Jane’s Carousel, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Dumbo
    Built in 1922 and bought by Jane and David Walentas in 1984, the meticulously restored carousel opened in September of 2011 along the shores of the East River. Open year-round.
  • Totally Kid Carousel, Riverbank State Park, 679 Riverside Drive, Manhattan
    Built in 1997, this modern carousel’s design is based off of children’s drawings of animals. Riders have great views of the Hudson River and the George Washington Bridge. Open year-round.

  • Forest Park Carousel, Queens
    The Muller Carousel, as it is sometimes known, operated from 1973 – 1985. It was renovated again in 1988 and has been closed since 2008. The first carousel on the site was also carved by Daniel Carl Muller, but burned down in 1966. Not yet open.

These horses from the B&B Carousell have been sanded and are waiting to be painted. The city is restoring the historic carousel, which will reopen at Coney Island in 2013. Photo courtesy of the NYC Economic Development Corporation.

  • B&B Carousell, Coney Island, Brooklyn
    B&B has always been at Coney Island, except for the time it spent in Marion, Ohio, where it received a state-of-the-art restoration job. It will return to Coney Island in 2013 and will open at Steeplechase Plaza, a new public open space welcoming visitors to Coney Island. 
  • SeaGlass Carousel, Battery Park, Manhattan
    This futuristic carousel will feature glass-and-steel aquatic creatures that will be illuminated by fiber optic and LED lights. Not yet open.

The SeaGlass carousel is a “spiraling pavilion of glass and steel” that “brings art, architecture, music and film to children of all ages.” YouTube/ BatteryConservancy

  • Jennifer

    The Prospect Park carousel is in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, not Prospect Heights, thankyouverymuch. Give us our bragging rights.

  • Georgia Kral

    Hi Jennifer– You are correct, the carousel is in PLG! Thanks for the comment.

  • mina

    To the above comments: the carousel is neither in Prospect Lefferts Gardens or in Prospect Heights. It’s in Prospect Park, period. No one has “bragging rights” or claims to that carousel, because it (or whatever particular features it may have) doesn’t belong to any one “neighborhood.” The park, being built for the benefit of all Brooklynnites, transcends the very idea. Sorry to get testy, but as a native New Yorker I’m getting irritated when people who aren’t from around here start applying their “smalltown pride” mentality to things where they don’t belong The idea that someone would be “offended” that the carousel is said to be located in another neighborhood other than her own is just so laughable to me. I’ve lived in Brooklyn all my life, lived in Prospect Heights for 21 years, and this would literally be the first time I have ever heard anyone claim “bragging rights” to the park or any feature of the park. It’s just so bizarre.

  • mina

    I forgot to add: if you want to be accurate, you’ll say that the “Prospect Park Carousel” is located in “Prospect Park, Brooklyn”, just as you wrote that the “Flushing Meadows Carousel” is located in “Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens.”

  • Brenda from Flatbush

    I am berserk with joy over the Sea Glass plan, just made Battery Park a “Guest Park” on my Prospect Park update:
    http://ayearinthepark.typepad.com/prospect_a_year_in_the_pa/2012/03/sea-change-carousel-rich-and-strange.html

  • Arlene

    So looking forward to the B&B returning home. Hoping the restorers keep the original paint designs in mind.

  • Johanna B.

    I love, love carousels in all forms-in all places, regardless as to ownership. They were a dream ship for me as a child…I actually caught the brass ring once…w/the help of my uncle.
    This summer, I’m planning on gathering a group of friends & visiting “EVERY SINGLE CAROUSEL,” in all parts of NY. There’s nothing better or more fun or more enchanting than a ride on a carousel…the fantasy belongs to whoever is a child at heart.
    Many thanks to NYC Parks Dept. for the joy of carousels.

    Johanna B.
    Lover of Carousels!

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