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The bride

The bride
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This was one of several wedding parties that arrived at Jane’s Carousel while I was there. Most of the others found a spot on the big lawn adjacent to the carousel, but this woman (and her maids of honor) decided to use the carousel itself as a backdrop.

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Because I work and live in Manhattan, I don’t often visit the four other boroughs of New York City … but there’s a magical place in Brooklyn that I want to tell you about, located in Brooklyn Bridge Park at the edge of the East River. It’s right on the water, framed by the Manhattan Bridge on the north and the Brooklyn Bridge on the south. A few NYC residents and perhaps even a few visitors are already nodding their heads as they read this, but I suspect that most readers of these Flickr notes are as oblivious as I was, and have never heard of Jane’s Carousel.

“Jane” is, as I’ve now learned, Jane Walentas, an artist who spent 20 years overseeing the restoration of a magnificent 48-horse carousel, created by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, and first installed in a park in Youngstown, Ohio in 1922. Ms. Walentas and her husband, David, bought the carousel and the wooden horses at an auction in 1984 for 5,000; I have no idea what inspired them to do so, or what could possibly have inspired Jane to spend the next 20 years scraping off layers of paint and restoring the original design and colors, the pin-striping and the gold leaf as the carousel sat in a studio in Dumbo (for the non-New Yorkers who might have stumbled onto this page of notes, “DUMBO” is an acronym that means “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass).

Anyway, the carousel was opened in mid-September 2011, and for reasons unknown, I was completely oblivious as to its existence for the next three years. It’s located in a million transparent acrylic “jewel box” that was designed by the French architect Jean Novel, and it’s absolutely stunning to see. My wife coaxed me into taking the somewhat laborious subway ride from the Upper West Side (via the “C” and the “F” trains) over to Brooklyn a couple days ago, and we were lucky to have chosen a brilliantly sunny Saturday afternoon, arriving just at the beginning of the “golden hour” when the light was perfect for photography.

In the three years since it opened, Jane’s Carousel has apparently attracted a lot of attention: there were some New Yorkers like me wandering around, and some visitors from nearby New Jersey and Long Island … but I also heard and saw evidence of visitors from France, Germany, Russia, Japan, Korea, and a lot of other places which would normally have great difficulty distinguishing Brooklyn from the Bronx or Staten Island. You can arrange birthday parties at the carousel; and there were heavily-costumed bridal parties along with the dog-walkers, the photographers, and the tour boats (including the venerable Circle Line) cruising up and down the East River.

And speaking of the East River, one of the most dazzling aspects of this place is the view that you get, with the two mammoth bridges spanning the river, along with the Wall Street skyline, the South Street Seaport, and the massive Freedom Tower in the background. Even if you didn’t spend a minute looking at the brightly painted carousel horses, and listening to the hypnotic music of the carousel, you could easily spend the afternoon watching the tugboats and sailboats and barges and ferries, the cruise boats and the motorboats chugging up and down the river. One can only imagine what it must have been like a century ago, before the railroads and jet planes had eliminated the bulk of water travel.

I’m embarrassed that it took me so long to visit this place, and I hope that you’ll take the hint and go see it yourself, at your first opportunity. If you would like to see some more details about the place, you might want to start with the official website for Jane’s Carousel, located here:

janescarousel.com

A New York Times article, written shortly before the official opening of the carousel in mid-September 2011, can be found here

www.nytimes.com/2011/09/02/arts/design/janes-carousel-at-…

and an October 2012 New Yorker article about the impact of Hurricane Sandy on the carousel can be found here:

www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-carousel-survives

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