Tag Archives: Ed Wendell

Finally! Forest Park Carousel reopens


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Forest Park Carousel

After nearly four years, children — and adults — were able to rush the Forest Park Carousel, choose their favorite horse and take a spin on the historic ride.

The Forest Park Carousel, shuttered since 2008, held its grand reopening on Saturday, May 26, with hundreds of visitors turning out for the sun-filled event.

More than a dozen were able to take the maiden voyage on the century-old merry-go-round.

Jeff Watkins of Woodhaven brought his son, Joshua, who was among the carousel’s first riders.

“It’s a lot of fun and a great reason to get out of the house,” Watkins said. “The park is beautiful.”

“I really liked the ride a lot,” added Joshua, 8. “It went fast.”

The carousel will be open each weekend from 11 a.m. until sunset through late June. After that, it will be open every day until Labor Day. Each Saturday the carousel will also feature clown shows.

Senator Joe Addabbo, who had a chance to hop on the carousel at a press event on May 24, said he was excited to bring his daughters, Alexis and Arianna, to the same ride he once visited with his father as a child.

“It brought back memories from when my father brought me,” he said. “It’s family memories, it’s community memories and just to see my kids smile and laugh, it beats shuttered doors and a closed carousel.”

NY Carousel, the ride’s operator, said it expects to add chairs and tables and open the food stand in the coming weeks.

Ed Wendell, who has advocated for reopening the carousel for years, twice visited the ride on its opening weekend.

“Just in that initial first couple of days, seeing a new generation coming in and having their first ride and having their first experience was wonderful,” said Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, of the more than 100-year-old ride.

“We’re just traveling through; the carousel will hopefully be here for a very long time.”

As the carousel turns: A history of the Forest Park Carousel


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Forest Park Carousel

When the Forest Park Carousel stopped spinning in 2008, it nevertheless continued its merry-go-round cycle that had become all too familiar over its history.

For decades, the carousel stood continuously in Forest Park as one of the many jewels of the 543-acre greenspace with locals and visitors flocking to the attraction each spring and summer.

“My cousin used to come from Brooklyn to take me to the carousel,” said Leonora Lavan, former president of the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society, of the ride that only cost a nickel when she rode it in the 40s. “I had a favorite horse; I used to wait until it was free to get on.”

During the summers in the late 1940s, St. John’s journalism professor Frank Brady was the guardian of the famed merry-go-round. Brady operated the carousel, remembering the festive, carnival-like atmosphere.

“On a really nice Saturday or Sunday the place was packed. Sometimes we couldn’t even accommodate all the kids,” Brady, 78, remembered. “Every pony was taken.”

The carousel’s music, Johann Strauss waltzes, stuck with him through the decades, transporting him back to his days as operator.

“The music was always the big thing,” said Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society.

The music stopped in late 1966 when a fire tore through the ride, leaving behind only ashes.

“The fire started at 8:40 p.m. and was fought by 67 firemen using 26 pieces of fire apparatus, according to the Fire Department, and totally destroyed the carousel,” reported a 1966 article in the Long Island Daily Press.

The article said the carousel had been “a landmark for 50 years,” though an exact date of its opening in the park could not be confirmed.

“After the carousel burnt down, I remember my father taking me up there and seeing the ashes,” Wendell recalled.

Six years passed with no carousel replacing the original.

A Daniel C. Muller-carved carousel that formerly spun at Lakeview Park in Dracut, Massachusetts was on sale in the early 1970s. For $30,000, according to a 1972 Daily News article, Forest Park got a new carousel.

“[The carousel] was in an interesting little park at the end of a dead-end road in nowhere Massachusetts,” said Roland Hopkins, editor of The Carousel News & Trader magazine, a monthly based in California for carousel enthusiasts.

“Muller was one of the special ones for sure; he had a distinct style,” Hopkins said. “He was a master of strong military horses — strong, but not intimidating.”

Only two of the master carver’s carousels remain in the country; Forest Park and the Midway Carousel in Sandusky, Ohio.

The park’s new carousel was built in 1903 and featured a menagerie of hand carved wooden animals.

Everyone was delighted when they brought a carousel back, Wendell said, but barely a decade passed before it again was shuttered.

It fell into disrepair after closing in 1985.

“It really hasn’t had a good history since they brought the new one in. It’s had a history of being neglected,” said Wendell, who also heads the Woodhaven Residents Block Association.

Mary Ann Carey, district manager of Community Board 9, and members of the board began to lobby for the piece of Queens history to be restored.

New operators were secured, the ride was restored and a new era was set to begin.

City dignitaries, including then-Mayor Ed Koch, attended the carousel’s 1989 grand re-opening.

Eager to enjoy the first trip on the carousel, the crowd rushed to get on.

It didn’t move.

“I guess it was the weight of all the people,” laughed Carey.

A minor tweak, and the carousel was up and running again after a four-year absence.

For the next two decades, the carousel ran with relatively few problems.

In 2008, New York One, the carousel vendor, did not renew its contract, setting off another stagnant era for the ride.

While the carousel has stood still, local officials and residents have worked behind the scenes to get the historic ride spinning again.

Facebook groups were started, T-shirts were sold and four Requests for Proposals were issued.

Good news was received in March when the Parks Department announced a new vendor was chosen and the ride would be ready by spring.

But as March and April passed, even the staunchest supporters thought another year would pass with no carousel.

Fears were erased when the Parks Department announced New York Carousel Entertainment would operate the carousel and the public would once again be able to enjoy the attraction beginning Memorial Day weekend.

“We hope now people are more appreciative. We’ve come close to losing it before,” said Wendell.

Even from across the country, carousel enthusiasts realize the attraction of the Forest Park ride.

“You guys have a nice machine there. I hope these guys pay attention,” said Hopkins. “It will be great to have it up and running; it’s a great machine.”

A new era will begin on Saturday, May 26 at 11 a.m.

Woodhaven against street changes, for rezoning


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Ed Wendell

It was a successful evening for the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, which worked to further a vote against street changes they felt could negatively impact their neighborhood.

Community Board (CB) 9 voted unanimously against the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) proposed alterations, which could turn 84th Street into a southbound one-way street and make 89th Street one-way instead of two-way.

“It was a good feeling after two-and-a-half months of putting together e-mails, videos and flyers,” said Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association. “There was a lot of community involvement.”

Wendell, ecstatic about this vote, claimed that if these changes were to occur, there would be no way to get through the area except to take Woodhaven Boulevard.

These possible modifications were brought to his attention when a resident spotted a notice on her church’s bulletin board, alerting her that several local roadways would be altered. Feeling that these changes would negatively impact her neighborhood, she contacted CB 9, which passed the message along to Wendell.

A crowd of 175 gathered on Tuesday, March 13 to watch the proceedings over this vote. According to Wendell, most of Woodhaven’s residents were very against these street changes.

A vote for rezoning was strongly voted in favor of during the evening as well. According to Wendell, the zoning laws have not been reviewed and adjusted since 1961, rules he feels need to be reassessed due to Woodhaven’s overcrowding.

“You don’t want someone knocking down a nice one-family home and building condos for six families,” said Wendell. “[Rezoning laws] put the break on development in a community so you don’t get too densely populated.”

Now that the local community board has voted for rezoning, it will be passed along to the city.

 

Forest Park Carousel will ride again in spring


| brennison@queenscourier.com

File Photo

With spring comes renewal and the Forest Park Carousel recently received news that it has been given new life by the city’s Parks Department.

After three years, the revived Forest Park Carousel is expected to be up and running by the spring or summer, according to a Parks Department spokesperson.

While the carousel has stood still, local officials and residents have worked behind the scenes to get the historic ride spinning again.

“We’re very happy to hear some long overdue good news. It’s very encouraging.” said Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Resident’s Block Association, who has trumped up community support with “Save the Forest Park Carousel” T-shirts and a Facebook page with more than 1,150 likes.

The ride has not been operated since 2009 when its vendor, New York One, did not renew its contract.

A Request for Proposal for vendors — the fourth the Department issued — was announced in mid-December. All proposals had to be submitted by January 27. The Parks Department has yet to make a decision on a proposal, but plans to make an announcement in March.

Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley said she is “extremely pleased” that a new concessionaire will be operating the ride.

“With a proven vendor in place, I’m confident the carousel can once again become a great centerpiece and attraction for the park and neighborhood residents,” the councilmember said.

The carousel and the surrounding area of the park provides a tremendous opportunity for a new operator, Wendell believes.

“We’re anxious to hear the other plans the vendor has,” Wendell said. “It can become a real destination.”

The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission is also currently in the process of reviewing the eligibility of the carousel as a New York City landmark, said an agency spokesperson.

“It’s so priceless,” Wendell said. “You’re not going to get hand-carved wood carousels anymore. When these [works of art] are gone they’re gone forever.”

The carousel — built in 1903 — features figures carved by master sculptor Daniel Muller.

“This is something special,” Wendell said. “We’ve spent a lot of time keeping it alive in people’s consciousness. Once that thing finally opens, it’s going to be a great feeling.”

Woodhaven opposed to redistricting, traffic changes


| ecamhi@queenscourier.com

Woodhaven residents continued to show solidarity against recent rezoning and redistricting issues within their community.

During the Woodhaven Residents Block Association’s (WRBA) monthly town hall meeting, Ed Wendell, president of the civic group, urged residents to attend Community Board 9’s (CB 9) upcoming meeting to vote on the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) much criticized traffic change proposal.

The proposal, which Wendell said most residents oppose, would convert 89th Avenue to a one way street while changing 84th Street from a one-way northbound to a one-way southbound street between Liberty and Atlantic avenues.

CB 9 was slated to vote on the proposals during a public hearing on February 14 in Kew Gardens, but they postponed it due to complaints from the community about the meeting’s “inconvenient” date and time. They will now be meeting on March 13 to vote at the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps, located at 78-15 Jamaica Avenue.

Meanwhile, Maria Thomson, WRBA financial secretary, asked residents to voice their opposition to recent redistricting plans drafted by Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR). She said the plans would unfavorably split one square mile of Woodhaven amongst three separate Senate districts.

“This is a very, very big deal,” Thomson said. “We don’t want to be sliced and diced. It weakens our strength at the state level.”

Thomson and Assemblymember Mike Miller advised residents who attended the February 18 meeting to act with urgency in voicing their opposition to the redistricting plans.

“You don’t have much time to do it,” Miller said. “The vote is at the end of the month.”

Residents opposed to Woodhaven street changes


| mchan@queenscourier.com

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The city’s plan to change the direction of two streets in Woodhaven is heading down a one-way road to opposition.

While the project is only in its proposal stage, plans to convert 84th Street from one-way northbound to one-way southbound from Liberty to Atlantic Avenues and turn 89th Avenue from a two-way to a one-way street running eastbound between Woodhaven Boulevard and 97th Street have been met with resistance from residents and local civic groups.

“Both of these changes are not good for the community. They weren’t asked for by residents,” said Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association (WRBA). “It doesn’t make very much sense, and it’s a bad change.”

Wendell said if the changes are implemented, the “symbiotic” relationship between Woodhaven and its adjacent neighborhood — Ozone Park — would suffer by the newfound difficulty that would come from traveling back and forth.

He said the 84th Street alteration would eliminate one of the main northbound entry points into Woodhaven, leaving only Woodhaven Boulevard and 76th Street as northbound roads that cross Atlantic Avenue.

“It’s like the doors of a supermarket — with the entrance and exit doors next to each other. If you close one of those doors, it’s going to cause problems. This cuts off one of the valuable entrances back into Woodhaven from Ozone Park. This is going to hurt both communities.”

Wendell also said turning 89th Avenue into a one-way street would severely inconvenience residents — some of whom would be forced to go “at least six blocks out of their way” to get home.

“In order to get home, the only way they can do it is to make this really awkward turn on Jamaica Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard, which is congested already,” Wendell said. “That’s the move this is going to force all these people to make. These residents are not going to have a choice. It’s going to be the only way to get home.”

According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), the request to convert 89th Avenue to a one-way operation came from Community Board 9 (CB 9) in 2008 due to the narrow roadway width, coupled with parking on both sides. The westbound direction was recommended to foster the safe curbside drop-off of students, a DOT spokesperson said.

CB 9 has yet to vote on the proposal, according to District Manager Mary Ann Carey, due to “so much controversy” revolving around the issue. The board postponed the original meeting to vote on the plans in order to seek more input from the community, although Carey said CB 9 sent out notices to residents back in 2008 when she said the plans were first proposed.

“There are so many different opinions. There are a few who are for it, but there are so very many who spoke in opposition of it. CB 9 more than likely goes with the community, but when the community is divided, it’s hard to decide,” Carey said.

The proposals will be voted on during a public hearing scheduled for February 1 at 7 p.m. at St. Elizabeth’s Church in Ozone Park.

Carey said that although feedback from the community board carries a lot of weight, the city Department of Transportation (DOT) will make the final call.

Resisting rezoning Richmond Hill


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Ed Wendell.

While some local leaders laud the city’s plan to rezone Richmond Hill and Woodhaven, one local business organization said it would negatively impact and cap the growth of the community.

According to a spokesperson for the Department of City Planning, plans to rezone stem from concerns raised by Community Board 9, local civic organizations and area elected officials who say that existing zoning — which has remained unchanged since 1961 — does not closely reflect established building patterns or guide new development to appropriate locations.

Therefore, the Department of City Planning is looking to rezone 231 blocks of Richmond Hill and Woodhaven to reinforce the predominant one- and two-family homes that are characteristic of the community, while redirecting new residential and mixed-use development opportunities to locations along the area’s main commercial corridors near mass transit resources.

“The whole idea of rezoning is to keep neighborhoods stable, safe and healthy,” said Andrea Crawford, chair of Community Board 9. “It’s about maintaining the character of the neighborhood. If you start to tear down the single family and two family homes to put up larger, multiple dwellings, the infrastructure can’t support it, and the school system can’t support it. It makes the area so overly-dense that the neighborhood spills out onto itself. It explodes at the seams.”

The plan also deters expansion in a neighborhood that already struggles with lack of space and overcrowding, said Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association (WRBA).

“Through a residential point of view, expansion takes away parking, and it cripples our services, crowds our schools, and creates more garbage and noise,” he said. “You do not want areas currently zoned for two-family homes to suddenly spring up with large apartment buildings. That’s a no-brainer.”

Wendell said many of the neighborhood’s problems frequently get tied back to overcrowding, including increased noise, fights, garbage and lack of parking.

“We are absolutely in favor of anything that would help cut down on overcrowding,” he said.

Still, Vishnu Mahadeo, president of the Richmond Hill Economic Development Council, said the plan would limit the capacity to build in the neighborhood — subsequently keeping families from growing.

“The community keeps expanding,” he said. “How can you reduce the capacity of the community? The community board needs to review the census data and make it relevant to the zoning.”

Mahadeo said he has a petition with over 2,000 signatures from residents who do not want to be “down-zoned.”

But Crawford said “it’s not down-zoning anything.”

“It’s zoning to correct the neighborhood,” she said, adding that the majority of people against the plan are landlords looking to tear down homes to put up large apartment complexes. “There are many people who live here and support it. They bought into a neighborhood, and they wanted a specific style of the neighborhood. We’re not saying don’t allow for larger structures. We’re saying it has to be sensible, and this does reflect what is necessary and what is allowable.”

The Department of City Planning is currently conducting community outreach meetings on a proposal prior to initiating the formal public review process, which can take up to seven months. The city agency will speak to residents on January 21 at WRBA’s monthly meeting.

One last spin for land marking Forest Park Carousel


| brennison@queenscourier.com

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Forest Park Carousel is getting one more spin at landmark status.

Area residents and leaders hope to have the historic local landmark officially recognized as one by the city’s Landmark Preservation Commission.

The carousel — which last spun in 2008 — is currently being reviewed by the commission to see whether it meets the eligibility for landmarking.

For the merry-go-round to be considered, it must have official historical or aesthetic interest or value as part of the development, heritage or cultural characteristics of the city, state or nation, as well as be at least 30 years old, said a spokesperson for the commission.

The carousel — built in 1903 and featuring figures carved by master sculptor Daniel Muller — passes the age criteria and many area residents would attest to its heritage and cultural importance.

“I think landmarking would be a fantastic way of preserving it,” said Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Resident’s Block Association, who is pursuing the landmarking. “It’s part of our shared history. It’s part of our community.”

The fact that there are already two carousels landmarked in the city — the Central Park and Prospect Park carousels — has not escaped Wendell’s attention. Those Manhattan carousels are part of larger scenic landmarks, something Wendell feels Forest Park can qualify for, offering the George Seuffert, Sr. Bandshell, the greenhouse and carousel as just a few examples of the park’s historical significance.

The city’s landmarking commission gave no timetable for when a decision on the carousel’s eligibility will be determined. If the commission grants it is eligible, the carousel will then face a hearing and the proposal will go to a vote after which it will be reviewed by the city planning commission and city council.

“This is going to be a long process. Nothing moves fast in this city,” said Wendell, adding that despite not having a timetable, he is confident. “I think we have an excellent chance. Everyone would be happy about it. It’s got to happen.”

He attributed his positive feelings to the combined good will of the local residents. The Save the Forest Park Carousel Facebook page has over 1,100 likes. And those that want to wear their support for the carousel on their sleeve can still purchase “Save the Forest Park Carousel” T-shirts from the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association’s web site.

The carousel has not been operated since its vendor, New York One, did not renew its contract in 2008. Three requests for proposals (RFPs) have been issued since the carousel last operated and the Parks Department announced a fourth RFP on Tuesday, December 13. The Parks Department said it will conduct “extensive outreach” to find a suitable vendor.