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SeaGlass Carousel

SeaGlass Carousel. Courtesy Battery Park Conservancy

A unique carousel celebrating the history of the Battery as the first home of the New York Aquarium, which opened in 1896, is almost set to spin. After a decade of fundraising and construction, the Battery Conservancy issued an RFP (Request for Proposals) for the operation and maintenance of the SeaGlass Carousel along with food and merchandise carts in Manhattan’s Battery Park. There will be a recommended proposer meeting on March 11, with a due date for proposals on April 14th. To download the RFP, visit http://www.thebattery.org.

Designed to simulate a dive to the bottom of the sea, the carousel features iridescent fish set on four moving turntables within a nautilus shell structure. “Combined with swivel and the up-and-down motions of the fish mounted on these turntables, these various systems generate up to 25 axes of motion…swimming indeed,” according to the RFP.

SeaGlass Carousel was conceived and designed by WXY Architecture + Urban Design and their engineering teams, George Tsypin Opera Factory and Show Canada. The $16 million dollar project was funded with a combination of public and private funds.

Upon the opening of the carousel in 2014 and the Battery Garden Bikeway in 2015, over 90% of the park’s rebuilding will be complete. One of New York’s oldest parks, dating back to 1693, Battery Park was once home to the New York Aquarium, which was located in Castle Clinton from 1896 until 1941. The SeaGlass Carousel is expected to operate 7 days a week, year-round.

The Battery Conservancy’s original vision for the park’s redo included working with the New York Aquarium at Coney Island to develop a ferry link from the Battery waterfront to a dock near the aquarium. In 2007, then City Councilman Alan Gerson, whose district included Battery Park, told the New York Sun, “I would like to get the job done during the next fiscal year, especially now that Coney Island is being rebuilt.”

The NYCEDC commissioned a Coney Island Ferry Feasibility Study focusing on three potential ferry pier locations to be built or refurbished in Coney Island: Steeplechase Pier, West 8th Street and a location in Coney Island Creek, but Coney Island was not among the prioritized sites in the NYCEDC’s 2013 Citywide Ferry Study. Friends of Coney Island Creek Ferry Landing + Park, a group advocating for a recreational ferry link between Coney Island and The Battery, held a test run last June.

UPDATE August 19, 2015:

Ten years in the making, the much-anticipated SeaGlass Carousel at Battery Park will open to the public on Thursday, August 20th, from 1pm till midnight. NY Carousel was selected to operate the ride. ATZ’s report, including photos and video of the carousel’s inaugural spin at yesterday’s press preview, is here.

New York Aquarium in Castle Clinton

May 31, 1934 aerial image of the New York Aquarium, then located at Castle Clinton in Battery Park, during a Navy visit to New York City. Photo via NYC Parks Department

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January 20, 2014: Amusement Park Operators Eye Return to Staten Island Beachfront

August 22, 2013: In Memoriam: Carousel & Amusement Park Operator Jimmy McCullough

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December 8, 2010: Children’s Book Tells Coney Island Carousel Carver’s Story

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Forest Park Carousel

The Forest Park Carousel. June 12, 2008. Photo © Rorrises via flickr

On Tuesday, the City’s Parks Department issued an RFP (Request for Proposals) to renovate, operate and maintain the antique carousels in Flushing Meadows Park and Forest Park in Queens for a 15-year term. It’s the fourth go-round for an RFP to run the Forest Park Carousel, which has been shuttered since September 2008, and the second for Flushing Meadows. Parks did not receive any proposals for their first two RFPs for the Forest Park ride, though there were responses to the most recent RFP in April, which also included the Flushing Meadows Carousel.

After the last RFP was issued in April, a Parks Department spokesman said there were no suitable proposals, according to Project Woodhaven, a local website that has been advocating for the reopening of their neighborhood carousel. Here’s a video they made on the occasion of the site tour in April 2011. Let’s hope the fourth time round is the charm for Forest Park!

The Forest Park ride was manufactured in Philadelphia in 1910 and is one of two Daniel Muller carousels still in operation. “In his dedication to reality, Muller would carve stitching holes in the saddles and insert heavy thread to give the illusion that real leather had been used,” writes William Manns in Painted Ponies: American Carousel Art. “”His Indian Ponies were adorned with lifelike feathers and his saddles and bridles sometimes were carved to resemble tooled leather.”

The Flushing Meadows Carousel has a Coney Island pedigree. It is the work of amusement ride inventor and manufacturer William F Mangels and developer of the “Coney Island style of carousel wood carving” Marcus C Illions. The ride is comprised of two Coney island carousels that were combined and brought to Queens for the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair. The frame, organ, chariots and 47 horses are from the Stubbman Carousel (1908) and 24 horses are from the Feltman Carousel (1903).

Flushing Meadows Carousel

Flushing Meadows Carousel. May 9, 2009. Photo © agent j loves agent a via flickr

Close-up photos of some of Muller’s and Illions’ carvings may be viewed on the “Carousels: Queens” page of RoadsideArchitecture.com

How much can a concessionaire expect to make operating the two Queens carousels? In 2008, the Forest Park Carousel had gross receipts of $72,000. The guaranteed annual fee to Parks was $20,000 or 10 per cent of gross receipts. In previous years the annual fee ranged from $15,000 to $17,500. In 2010 – 2011, the Flushing Meadows Carousel had gross receipts of $160,554 for carousel rides, $76,824 for food sales, $37,205 for toy sales, and $1,036 for special events. The guaranteed annual fee to Parks was $80,000 or 10 per cent of gross receipts.

According to the current RFP, “In the last agreement, the fee paid to Parks was the higher of the minimum annual fee or percentage of gross receipts. However, in responding to this request for proposal, proposers should express their fee offer only as a flat fee, and not on a percentage of gross receipts.”

 Flushing Meadows Carousel

A busy day at the carousel in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, June 1968. Courtesy of the Parks Department Photo Archive

Here’s the hitch: the City requires a substantial investment from the operator, who is responsible for all costs associated with the renovation, operation, and maintenance of the antique rides and their pavilions. According to an article in last week’s Queens Chronicle, the cost of renovation work on the Forest Park Carousel adds up to about $150,000. But there is already one potential proposer: Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) recently met with the Parks Department and reps from Independence Residences Inc., an area nonprofit interested in operating the carousel, the paper reported.

Proposals for the current RFP, which may include the option to develop and operate a “family amusement venue” at Forest Park and “children’s amusement rides” and mobile food units and souvenir carts at Flushing Meadows Park are due on January 27, 2012. An on-site proposer meeting and site tour will be held at both locations on January 12th.

Last month the City’s Parks Department also issued an RFP to operate and maintain the restored B & B Carousell at Coney Island’s Steeplechase Plaza next to the landmark Parachute Jump. Proposals to operate the B & B are due on January 17, 2012. (Update: On December 30th, Parks sent out an addendum to provide a website where available plans may be downloaded and extended the deadline for the B & B to January 30th)

carousel tiger

Forest Park Carousel Tiger. Courtesy of the Parks Department Photo Archive

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December 4, 2011: Brass Ring Dept: Coney Island “Carousell” RFP Up for Grabs

February 1, 2011: Bring Back the Whip! A Birthday Gift for William F Mangels

December 8, 2010: Children’s Book Tells Coney Island Carousel Carver’s Story

February 26, 2010: Made in Brooklyn: The World’s Only Jet-Powered Merry-Go-Round

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