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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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B & B Carousell

Painting and signage at B & B Carousell, Coney Island. August 2005. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Wanna grab the brass ring in the new Coney Island? New York City is seeking an operator for Coney’s historic B & B Carousell, which was saved from auction in 2005 when the City purchased the ride for $1.8 million. If you fancy the idea of running it, there’s a proposers meeting on Tuesday at 11 am at the Arsenal in Central Park that you shouldn’t miss. Last month the City’s Parks Department issued an RFP (Request for Proposals) to operate and maintain the restored 1919 carousel at the new Steeplechase Plaza next to the landmark Parachute Jump. Proposals to operate the B & B are due on January 17, 2012. (December 30, 2011 Update: Parks sent out an addendum today to provide a website where available plans may be downloaded and extended the deadline to January 30th)

In the RFP, the $2.00 ticket price for a whirl on the Central Park Carousel is cited as a point of reference for proposers. In 2009, the Central Park Carousel took in $188,123 and the concession fee there is $7,500 per month, according to the New York Post. You may not get rich selling tickets, but the ten-year lease for the B & B also includes a food service facility, merchandise kiosks, vending machines and a special event room, which is expected to be a popular spot for birthday parties.

B & B Carousell

B & B Carousell, Coney Island. August 2005. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The carousels in Central Park and Prospect Park as well as the horses on the Flushing Meadows Carousel were all relocated from Coney Island, which once had dozens of operating carousels. B & B is short for Bishoff and Brienstein, who brought the carousel back home to Coney Island from New Jersey’s Bertrand Island in 1932. The frame was the work of Coney’s William F. Mangels Carousell Works and the carvings were done by Charles Carmel. Jimmy McCullough and Mike Saltzstein owned and operated the ride since the 1970s.

These snapshots of the B & B were taken with a film camera in August 2005 after the City purchased the carousel. It was the last time that we saw the B & B. The ride was soon packed up and moved from its longtime location on the north side of Surf Avenue and sent to Ohio for restoration. A fairground art collector once told us that the scenic art gracing the B & B and its pavilion was the work of August Wolfinger, a German immigrant who worked closely with Mangels. As a banner painter he was known as “The Michelangelo of the Midway.” Some of the medallions and signs shown in the photos will be back on view when the B & B reopens in Steeplechase Plaza in 2013. The ride will be installed in a glass pavilion with large-scale neon lettering spelling B & B CAROUSELL with a double L, of course.

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Stillwell Terminal Store

Last Store for Rent in Stillwell Terminal. November 14, 2011. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Coney Island’s Stillwell Terminal, which was reconstructed from 2001 to 2005, is about to be fully leased. The last chance to rent the last vacant store in one of the world’s largest above-ground subway terminals is coming up on Friday. Proposals should be submitted to the MTA by 3pm on December 2nd. For a copy of the RFP, contact the MTA Real Estate Department.

The suggested use for the approximately 625 square foot space is retail or food. The suggested annual rent is $45,000 with a 3% – 5% annual increase over the term of the ten-year lease. That works out to be $72 per square foot, but the potential tenant may offer more or less. The tenant is responsible for building the entire interior, installing utilities and other improvements according to strict specifications set by the MTA.

Not permitted: “Video games and arcades are not allowed. Stores selling t-shirts, beach-related accessories or Asian-themed dry goods are not allowed. Any selling of ice cream, donuts, submarine sandwiches, or grocery-type items is not allowed. ATMs or typical newsstand- type items are not allowed. Store is required to be open year-round (not just in summer months).”

Arcade games are apparently banned by the MTA and the restricted items are already sold by current tenants.Stillwell Terminal shops are occupied by Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins, Subway, Bank of America and a newsstand. Lola Star Boutique, Coney Island Beach Shop and Coney Island Gift Shop have the T-shirt and beach gear market covered. Gourmet Food, which sells imported chocolate, cookies and nuts, as well grocery items, opened this month.

The RFP also contains an interesting statistic: The annual average weekday station customer count –paid entry at station only, not exiting– is 12,240. Summer passenger count increases significantly. For Saturdays in June, July and August in 2009, average paid entry was 22,411.

Gourmet Shop

Newly Opened Gourmet Food Shop, Stillwell Terminal. November 14, 2011. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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