Heidi Nguyen, 23, knew the view of the East River and the city skyline from Jane’s Carousel in Brooklyn Bridge Park between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges was amazing, so she opted to have some of her wedding photos taken here. On the day of the wedding, she lifted her bridal gown, slowly stepped on one of the carousel’s chariots with her fiancé, Kevin Chen. The held hands and she kissed him. The two photographer snapped away as her bridesmaids and groomsmen offered their good wishes.
“We love this carousel and we are getting married today!” the newly-married couple cheered. They got a ride on the carousel, as two photographers tried to find the best angle to capture this lovely moment. “It’s a great place to be. When we have kids, we will come back!” Nguyen said to the Brooklyn Ink.
Being a well-known historic carousel,Jane’s Carousel is a popular spot for wedding ceremonies and birthday parties. Jane Walentas, owner of this carousel, said she gets dozens of special requests every month since it opened in 2011. But it is also a special carousel for many children from Brooklyn whoe come here almost every day.
However, this little paradise was nearly inundated by Superstorm Sandy three months ago. A photo of water pouring into it during the storm went viral and drew immense attention. “I got emails from people all over the world,” said Walentas. “They wanted to know if the carousel was washed out to sea!”
Eighteen inches of water flooded the inside the building and five inches of water covered the basement, damaging the carousel’s sophisticated electronic systems housed there. The total damage was in excess of $300,000.
The recovery has been grueling. While the carousel’s fire alarms, telephone and the Internet, were restored within a month of the storm, the owner said. And the repair of the mechanism that controls the carousel’s doors, its heating system, the shades, and the audio/video controls are still catching up slowly.
“Two technicians from Switzerland who came to re-install the door controllers just finished their work last month. The heating system is now finally operational, but the carousel is still using some temporary equipment, which will be switched out for permanent equipment very shortly,” Walentas said in an interview with the Brooklyn Ink in the glass building that accommodates the carousel.
The shades were fully restored again with all new controllers and the audio/video controls were also just fixed.
Though the carousel’s owner opened up again within two weeks after the storm, her business hasn’t showed strong sign of recovery due to the lingering cold weather, storm devastation in the surrounding Dumbo neighborhood and the malfunctioning of most of the systems that keep the carousel running. “Our business was about a quarter of what it was last winter,” she said.
Ticket sales have been slow. Even with a special February promotion, the carousel sold only 3,891tickets. “Before the hurricane, we would at least sell 5,000 to 6,000 tickets a month,” said Jane’s assistant Rachel Allolli. Things are on the upswing though. In the first weekend of March, she reports, 1,500 riders boarded the carousel. “It’s quickly getting back to selling more tickets now,” she added.
The music band organ is the last piece to come. “We hope it will be shipped back and re-installed by the end of April,” she said. After being totally destroyed during the hurricane, the carousel’s German made antique band organ had to be returned to a technician in Ohio, from whom Walentas had initially bought this music organ from, for complete restoration.
Some children, she said, who come to the carousel almost every day know every detail about what they think of as their big toy—all the horses, the carvings and the music. “It’s amazing how some children noticed that. They said ‘Oh, the music is different,’” Walentas said.
This isn’t the first time Jane Walentas has had to save the carousel. It’s happened twice before. The carousel was first made by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company in 1922, the heyday of the American carousel. To prevent it from being sold off piecemeal, Jane and David Walentas purchased the carousel for $385,000 at an auction on October, 1984, and then she called in a Mercedes-Benz car detailer to paint the horse’s bridles, and used actual gold leaf for decoration.
Together with some painters and carpenters, she made repairs and scraped away 62-years of paint with an X-acto knife to reveal the original 1922 carvings, color palette, and designs on those horses. Missing embellishments such as faceted jewels, small beveled mirrors on the bridles, and delicate pinstripping were all restored as well.
This time, she spared no cost in repairing it again, which she said is mostly for the children. Jennifer Richardson used to bring her two year-old son, Cooper to the carousel to ride his favorite brown horse every week before Sandy. “We were really worried that we might lose the carousel,” she said on her first visit back with her son. “So needless to say, we are very happy that we have it.”