The historic carousel, with elaborate wooden horses and chariots carved over 100 years ago by artist Daniel Carl Muller, was shuttered in 2008 when operator New York One LLC let its contract lapse.
The Parks Department released a Request For Proposal (RFP) in early 2009, but there was no response. A second proposal was released in March, but again, there were no interested vendors. Then, in 2010, the department entered negotiations with a possible vendor.
The deal fell through, and the carousel’s shutters stayed closed.
Last week, Parks Department officials released a new request. This time, they have included the more profitable carousel at Flushing Meadows Corona Park, hoping to make the deal more attractive to prospective vendors.
“Taking the family on a carousel ride in a park is a treasured New York City experience,” Parks and Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe said. “We hope to receive proposals from companies with strong backgrounds in developing, operating and maintaining carousels and amusement venues, so that the carousels at Forest Park and Flushing Meadows Corona Park can continue to delight New Yorkers for many generations to come.”
Both sites include food stands (carts at Flushing Meadows) and park space for seating. In 2008, the last year the Forest Park carousel was operational, the site grossed $72,000. Over the same period, the Flushing Meadows site grossed more than $260,000. The Flushing Meadows site is next to the Queens Zoo.
According to the RFP, the department is taking requests for a fifteen year contract that would end on December 31, 2025. As soon as a vendor is approved, it can begin operating the Forest Park carousel. When the Flushing Meadows contract—currently held by New York One LLC—expires on March 30, 2012, the vendor will begin operations at that carousel as well.
“Anyone can run a carousel, but there is a lot more that goes into this,” said Mary Ann Carey, District Manager of Community Board 9. “We need someone who has expertise.”
Carey pointed out that all the previous possible vendors have fallen through and that she heard there was renewed interest recently, but that any vendor will have to follow the proper procedure.
Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) said he is excited about the prospect of a new vendor.
“This place means a lot to the community and to me as well,” he said. “I went there frequently as a child and now we have the chance to share those experiences we had with our children. I hope that the new vendor coming will improve the services provided to include food vendors other forms of entertainment so that it will be a viable attraction for children from all over Queens.”
The Parks department is also including an optional amusement area adjacent to the carousel site, sloping down to Woodhaven Boulevard, that the RFP says the Parks Department envisions as “an amusement venue that would include small rides that cater to ages twelve years old and younger.”
Additionally, the RFP states that alcoholic beverages could be served at the Forest park site, provided the city issues the proper permits, but stressed that they would be served only to accompany food.
The original carousel in the park burnt down in 1966. According to the RFP, the current carousel’s fire prevention system is inoperable—one of many repairs a new operator will be required to complete.
The current Forest Park carousel—completed in 1903—was bought for the park in 1972, renovated and operated until 1985. After three years of disrepair, the carousel resumed operation. The Parks Department and residents hope a new proposal will give the carousel a long, and happy run, free of the tragedies in the park’s past.
The department will be giving tours of both sites for prospective vendors on April 27, and proposals are due May 13 at 3 p.m.
by David J. Harvey