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Forest Park Carousel opens after three-year hiatus

Heather Bonilla, a second-grade student from St. John's Lutheran School, takes a ride on the carousel. Photo by Christina Santucci
TimesLedger Newspapers

Adults relived their childhoods while youngsters shouted in delight as the Forest Park Carousel whirled for the first time in more than three years last week.

Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski welcomed elected officials, civic leaders and students from nearby St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran School for an inaugural spin on the historic carousel last Thursday.

“The carousel is officially back in business and we encourage everyone to spread the world,” said Lewandowski.

Earlier this month, the Woodhaven Residents Block Association announced after an aggressive letter-writing campaign that Parks had selected a new operator for the famed attraction, which had been shuttered in the park’s west side since 2008.

Ed Wendell, president of the WRBA, said fighting to reopen the ride was an emotional experience for him — and even though he was confident in his group’s efforts, he recalled days when he felt it might never ride again.

“It’s a great feeling to see the carousel running again because there were times when I felt in my heart that we might actually lose it,” he said. “To see the kids and to hear the music, it’s really amazing. It’s an important part of our identity and a shared experience of many in Woodhaven. It’s a source of pride.”

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) and City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), both of whom took a spin on the carousel, were on hand to welcome the carousel’s return to operation.

“This is a wonderful day for the carousel, but also for the entire Woodhaven community,” said Ulrich. “I’m so glad to see the carousel restored to its original glory and brought back to life for everyone to enjoy.”

Addabbo said he often tells his daughters Alexis and Arianna about the old days of riding the carousel.

“I’m so pleased we can stop talking about it and actually ride it,” he said. “This wouldn’t have been possible without the voices of the community speaking out.”

The voices heard at the carousel on this day were those of children from St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran School on Myrtle Avenue, who rushed the carousel when the gates opened and excitedly mounted a menagerie of expertly carved animals.

“I’m definitely coming back again,” said Ethan Bertolini, who rode a horse with his friend Lael Morielle.

The new operator of the ride, New York Carousel Entertainment, also operates the Flushing Meadows Corona Park Carousel.

Forest Park’s historic carousel dates back more than 100 years, when its colorful steeds were hand-carved by artist Daniel Carl Muller. Originally situated in Dracut, Mass., the carousel was moved to Forest Park in 1972. The carousel in Flushing Meadows was originally designed for the 1964 World’s Fair and was created by Marcus Charles Illions.

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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