A 1920s-era carousel donated to Brooklyn Bridge Park may soon be as iconic as the River Café or the bridge itself, after architects revealed big plans for the attraction on Monday night.
When it moves to the park next year, the lovingly restored “Jane’s Carousel” will get some flashy upgrades, including a transparent, Jean-Nouvel-designed glass pavilion that will cast silhouettes of the spinning ponies across the East River at night.
It’ll be placed on the water’s edge at Empire Fulton Ferry State Park — which will be integrated into Brooklyn Bridge Park early next year — and become a staple of the waterfront scenery.
“We’ve worked so hard restoring this carousel — and now we’re excited to have our dream architect working on the pavilion,” said Jane Walentas, the ride’s owner and wife of DUMBO developer David Walentas.
Walentas revealed the pavilion design to the Community Board 2 Parks and Recreation Committee on Monday. The carousel’s 28-foot-tall glass enclosure will be completely transparent by day — with retractable walls for year-round use — but at night, drapes will come down and a lightshow from inside will cascade the bobbing horses’ silhouettes as far as the Manhattan shoreline.
Plus, Walentas said that the ride would be completely self-sustaining and operate off of its own funds from a nearby concession rather than the park’s maintenance budget.
But as with many of Brooklyn Bridge Park’s development operations, critics barked at the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation for a lack of democracy — in this case, not involving the public in picking the best site for the gift.
“This sets a precedent: if you donate something, the community doesn’t get a public-review process,” said Doreen Gallo, executive director of the DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance, who also objected to the light show.
“We’ll also never be able to see the bridge without [the carousel in the way],” she said. “I take issue with that.”
Many community members like Gallo previously rallied to get the carousel moved to the park’s Pier 6 portion at the foot of Atlantic Avenue, but the public process was usurped because of the state’s transfer of Empire Fulton Ferry State Park to the development corporation.
Developers argued that they couldn’t turn down the “wonderful” donation, and noted that the carousel wouldn’t overpower the Brooklyn Bridge with its light scheme.
On the other hand, Walentas said that the site was her plan all along, ever since her husband David, a DUMBO real-estate titan, worked on Empire Fulton Ferry State Park.
“This carousel was bought [in 1984] for that site,” she told the community board. “We stuck to where we wanted it.”
The Walentases — who are involved in a plethora of significant DUMBO developments — have certainly stirred up the Community Board 2 bee’s nest in the past. Last year, David Walentas was embattled with community activists to start building a controversial 18-story residential building and public middle school on Dock Street, which opponents argued would forever block views of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Walentas later won approval for that project.