DUMBO doyenne Jane Walentas has reached a final deal with the developers of Brooklyn Bridge Park to donate her lovingly restored 1920s carousel to a waterfront spot behind the old Tobacco Warehouse — but the controversy over the plan is just beginning.
Some neighborhood leaders decried park planners for allowing Walentas, the wife of real-estate titan David Walentas, to not only pick the spot where her carousel would be sited, but also choose the architect to design the transparent, glass-walled pavilion where it will be housed.
The Jean Nouvel-designed structure will cast silhouettes of the spinning ponies across the East River at night when it opens next year on the water’s edge at Empire Fulton Ferry State Park — which will be integrated into Brooklyn Bridge Park.
“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 worked on Empire Fulton Ferry State Park.
“This carousel was bought [in 1984] for that site,” she told Community Board 2 on Monday night. “We stuck to where we wanted it.
“We’ve worked so hard restoring this carousel — and now we’re excited to have our dream architect working on the pavilion,” she added.
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.
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.