A Carousal For a Carousel

Jane Walentas glances happily at party visitors as Mayor Bloomberg (left) praises her carousel. Her husband David stands in a yellow slicker next to her, and at far right architect Jean Nouvel presents his profile. Photo by Henrik Krogius.

By Henrik Krogius

A chill October drizzle prematurely descending on balmy September last Thursday afternoon put no damper on an exuberant party for the opening of Jane’s Carousel down by the Brooklyn Bridge Park cove in DUMBO. The one conspicuous concession to the weather was the wearing of a yellow slicker by the slightly grizzled David Walentas. Mayor Michael Bloomberg headed a cast of officials hailing a splendid addition to the park. Jane Walentas, who had restored the horses of the 1922 merry-go-round, was all smiles.

Jean Nouvel, architect of the carousel’s elegant new housing, waved in the direction of the unusual hotel he had once designed for a nearby site, but that had been rejected, and went on to describe how, after dark, screens would be lowered against the sides of the transparent pavilion and the horses projected against them. Borough President Marty Markowitz, perhaps not catching all of the drift, remarked on how he loved to hear a French accent.

Regina Myer, president of Brooklyn Bridge Park, introduced the speakers beginning with Bloomberg, who, after praising the carousel and thanking the Walentases, called Markowitz “the greatest borough president of Brooklyn” before slyly adding “during my tenure in office.” Markowitz pointed out that Bloomberg had been in Brooklyn so much recently that maybe he was ready to take a nice apartment in DUMBO.

A couple hundred invited guests clustered about the dignitaries and sampled courtesy offerings of Veuve Clicquot champagne and hot dogs, and then tested rides on the horses after the mandatory ribbon had been cut. The drizzle ended, and while the air stayed cool the mood of celebration continued.

That not everyone in these parts was equally thrilled by this gift to the park by the Walentases, or by its location, was suggested by some absences — some might not have been given invitations. Early Brooklyn Bridge Park advocates like Anthony Manheim and Roy Sloane were not there, nor were Brooklyn Heights Association president Jane McGroarty and executive director Judy Stanton observed, although former BHA president Nancy Bowe was present. Judi Francis, who predictably opposes every park feature, was predictably absent.

The carousel pavilion and its setting astonished many at the party. Photo by Zach Campbell.

But Brooklyn’s downtown business community and the borough’s cultural institutions were well represented (Alan Fishman was sighted helping a son or maybe grandson mount a horse), along with officers both of Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy; and many area parents were there with children eager to try this exciting new experience. The politics surrounding Walentas developments and objectives — the nearby Tobacco Warehouse a reminder — were not on their minds, even if these parents knew of them.

Now the carousel is incontestably there, in a setting below two great bridges, with skyscrapers in the offing and interesting vessels of various kinds passing close by — a vintage gem inside the modern gem of its housing. Rides cost $2, with children under 3 riding free (when accompanied by an adult). It will be open throughout the week except on Tuesday, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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Filed under Brooklyn People, Community News, DUMBO

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