‘Jane’s Carousel’ closer to a grand entrance in Brooklyn Bridge Park

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A 1920s-era carousel donated to Brooklyn Bridge Park may soon be as iconic as the River Café or the bridge itself, after architects revealed big plans for the attraction on Monday night.

When it moves to the park next year, the lovingly restored “Jane’s Carousel” will get some flashy upgrades, including a transparent, Jean-Nouvel-designed glass pavilion that will cast silhouettes of the spinning ponies across the East River at night.

It’ll be placed on the water’s edge at Empire Fulton Ferry State Park — which will be integrated into Brooklyn Bridge Park early next year — and become a staple of the waterfront scenery.

“We’ve worked so hard restoring this carousel — and now we’re excited to have our dream architect working on the pavilion,” said Jane Walentas, the ride’s owner and wife of DUMBO developer David Walentas.

Walentas revealed the pavilion design to the Community Board 2 Parks and Recreation Committee on Monday. The carousel’s 28-foot-tall glass enclosure will be completely transparent by day — with retractable walls for year-round use — but at night, drapes will come down and a lightshow from inside will cascade the bobbing horses’ silhouettes as far as the Manhattan shoreline.

Plus, Walentas said that the ride would be completely self-sustaining and operate off of its own funds from a nearby concession rather than the park’s maintenance budget.

But as with many of Brooklyn Bridge Park’s development operations, critics barked at the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation for a lack of democracy — in this case, not involving the public in picking the best site for the gift.

“This sets a precedent: if you donate something, the community doesn’t get a public-review process,” said Doreen Gallo, executive director of the DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance, who also objected to the light show.

“We’ll also never be able to see the bridge without [the carousel in the way],” she said. “I take issue with that.”

Many community members like Gallo previously rallied to get the carousel moved to the park’s Pier 6 portion at the foot of Atlantic Avenue, but the public process was usurped because of the state’s transfer of Empire Fulton Ferry State Park to the development corporation.

Developers argued that they couldn’t turn down the “wonderful” donation, and noted that the carousel wouldn’t overpower the Brooklyn Bridge with its light scheme.

On the other hand, Walentas said that the site was her plan all along, ever since her husband David, a DUMBO real-estate titan, worked on Empire Fulton Ferry State Park.

“This carousel was bought [in 1984] for that site,” she told the community board. “We stuck to where we wanted it.”

The Walentases — who are involved in a plethora of significant DUMBO developments — have certainly stirred up the Community Board 2 bee’s nest in the past. Last year, David Walentas was embattled with community activists to start building a controversial 18-story residential building and public middle school on Dock Street, which opponents argued would forever block views of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Walentas later won approval for that project.

Updated 5:18 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Jon from South Brooklyn says:
Let me get this straight. A wealthy benefactor is giving the city a lovingly restored carousel, jewel-box of a pavilion and financing the park's renovation and people have a problem with that under the guise of no community input! So many great NYC landmarks and icons were gifts from wealthy patrons including the statue of liberty and the carnegie libraries.
May 18, 2010, 10:37 am
Peter Bray from Park Slope says:
The addition of the carousel will be a great amenity for the Brooklyn waterfront. It creates a connection to Brooklyn's history when the borough had shops that produced some of the greatest carousels made in the United States. However, like so much of everything else that happens in NYC, there is one set of rules for the rich and powerful -- read developers -- and another set for everyone else. Their money and influence buys them special access to our politicians, who then maneuver it so that decisions about public assets are made behind closed doors for private benefit. That's what happened with Atlantic Yards. By conveying public land to quasi public corporations run by the State, the special interests circumvent the land use review process. The Walentas got exactly what they want. An amenity that is in their front yard that enhances the value of their real estate. Whether it is good for the public, only time will tell. But it comes at a great cost in the integrity of our political system and in the belief of the average New Yorker that the system works on their behalf.
May 18, 2010, 2:40 pm
John from Ditmas Park West says:
And the "average New Yorker" has an old carousel laying around? Much less is able to donate it for public use? Would that Brooklyn had other civic minded Walentas types. We could benefit from more fountains, sculptures, and gardens in the public square. We've been modest and self effacing for too long.
May 19, 2010, 9:15 am

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