After 27 years, Jane’s Carousel finally opened to the public on Sept. 15 in a shiny new pavilion overlooking the East River — but before kids could jump on, the city’s elite took the classic merry-go-round for an inaugural ride.
Jane Walentas, artist and wife of DUMBO megadeveloper David Walentas, uncorked the Champagne and unveiled her magnificent 1920s carousel at an exclusive celebration featuring Mayor Bloomberg, Borough President Markowitz, pavilion designer Jean Nouvel and, of course, lots of kids.
“Hopefully it will be the wonderful landmark we all imagined,” said a verklempt Walentas. “If it hadn’t been for my husband and son and their relentless tenacity, it wouldn’t be here.”
The Walentases bought the $385,000 ride at an auction in Ohio in 1984 — and spent two decades restoring it.
Jane’s Carousel now shines in a Nouvel-designed $9-million acrylic and glass pavilion with 26-foot-tall retractable walls that open during the day. At night, shades drop over the glassy shelter, allowing the carousel horses to cast silhouettes across the river.
But the road to Brooklyn Bridge Park wasn’t easy.
From the beginning, Walentas wanted to put the carousel in what was then Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park, but the City Planning Commission blocked her husband’s plans for a development there. In 2009, city officials accepted her donation of the amusement to Brooklyn Bridge Park, but some locals blasted the project for skipping a public review.
A group called Friends of Jane’s Carousel will maintain and operate the ride under a 30-year contract with Brooklyn Bridge Park. Any additional revenues from the $2 per-ride ticket price will go to the park’s maintenance budget, said park spokeswoman Ellen Ryan.
Mayor Bloomberg lauded the DUMBO couple for paying for the carousel — and its protective structure.
“We understand how important it is to invest in things that make New York a great place to live, but we can’t do it alone,” Bloomberg said. “This is a magical city, a magical carousel, and a magical gift that the Walentases have made to New Yorkers, and it will be treasured for generations to come.”
Shelly Dinstein, 62, a longtime DUMBO resident and one of the first to hop on, agreed.
“Every horse and detail left me in awe!” she said. “It isn’t just the carousel — it’s the scenery, the lights, the Brooklyn Bridge that make it great.”
But children looking for a wild pony ride beware: the horses on the outer ring are stationary! Carousel experts say that’s because the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, maker of this classic, traditionally made “safer” rides. Darn it.
Jane’s Carousel at Brooklyn Bridge Park [Dock and Water streets in DUMBO, (718) 222-2502], 11 am to 7 pm. For info, visit janescarousel.com; Also, bring your ticket stub to the Water Street Restaurant & Lounge [66 Water St. between Main and Dock streets in DUMBO, (718) 625-9352], and receive $2 off your meal, which makes the ride free.