Idora carousel continues spinning in Brooklyn

By Denise Dick

New York

The carousel that stood as the centerpiece of the former Idora Park, which was restored and opened in Brooklyn, withstood the rain and winds of superstorm Sandy.

It was reopened just two weeks after the storm.

“Miraculously, the 90-year-old carousel and the award-winning pavilion suffered no cosmetic or structural damage,” owner Jane Walentas wrote in an email. “We are fortunately and officially ‘Sandy Survivors’!”

Walentas bought the carousel at an auction in 1984 after it was badly damaged in a fire at the park. She spent the next 22 years restoring the historic ride and opened it in September 2011 at the edge of the East River in Brooklyn Bridge Park as Jane’s Carousel.

The 1922 Philadelphia Toboggan Co. model sat in the park on the city’s South Side until fire ripped through the park in 1984. The park closed that year.

“We were able to reopen just two weeks after the hurricane on a beautiful sunny Sunday,” Walentas said. “It was a thrill to see the carousel spinning again, being enjoyed by hundreds of excited and very happy children. We are now fully operational and will be open throughout the winter.”

Boardman resident Richard Scarsella was involved in three different groups that worked to try to save all or part of the historic park. He writes about it in his book “Memories and Melancholy: Reflections on the Mahoning Valley and Youngstown, Ohio.”

“I personally would not have located the first carousel in the country to be listed on the National Historic Registry, on flat land near the water,” Scarsella said in an email. “However, this amusement park jewel, which knows no equal for hand-carved artistry, has now had a second brush with destruction. The first incident? The first Idora Park midway fire of 1984, which destroyed portions of the iconic Wild Cat Coaster, which was located next to the famed Idora Park Merry-go-round. This ride seems almost indestructible.”

Walentas thanked people who expressed concern and sent notes after the storm.

The pavilion withstood 5- to 6-foot waves crashing against it, and 5 feet of water flooded the basement.

“We did suffer a great deal of damage to our heating and ventilation systems, electronic controls for the huge Swiss doors, sun shades, LED perimeter lighting and sound system,” Walentas said. “Also, our beloved Gebruder Bruder Band Organ was nearly destroyed. We have begun the process of fully restoring all of the damaged items. We expect that within the next 12 weeks, everything will be returned to a pre-Sandy state.”

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