On Monday, the 48 painted horses in Jane’s Carousel stood eerily still inside an acrylic pavilion in Brooklyn Bridge Park as Superstorm Sandy inundated the carousel with over nine feet of floodwater. Overhead lights on the carousel’s roof cast the bulging East River in a cheery glow, making for one of the most dramatic images of the night, circulated on Twitter.
Jane Walentas, the carousel’s owner and guardian, spent the night anxious and white-knuckled, The New Yorker reported, peering from the roof of her apartment building in DUMBO for the reassurance that her decades-long restoration project would not drift off to sea with the receding tide. The park’s architects had placed the carousel atop a platform designed to withstand a 100-year flood, but Superstorm Sandy surpassed their estimates, rising above Irene’s highest point last year and filling the basin with salty water.
Jane’s Carousel did survive Sandy’s wrath, though it will likely be months before Walentas is able to reopen. The electrical engine that lies in a crawl space beneath the carousel will require extensive repair.
The path ahead for Walentas and her husband, David, founder of Two Trees Management Company, is daunting. The couple purchased the carousel when it was put up for auction in 1984 as a historic remnant from Youngstown, Ohio. It had been one of the sole survivors of a fire that ravaged Idora Park in the 1970’s, and Jane Walentas has been resolute in her effort to restore it to its original splendor. With a razor-sharp knife and impeccable patience, Jane spent the 80s and 90s removing previous layers of paint from the carousel and restoring the original detailing. After housing it briefly in a DUMBO storefront, in 2011 she and her husband finally saw the carousel installed in Brooklyn Bridge Park, where its riders could enjoy breathtaking views of the Manhattan skyline.
Jane’s Carousel has proved it can withstand nature’s fury, now that the storm surge has receded and the carousel’s subterranean electronic gears have been pumped free of salt water. Under Jane Walentas’s loving hand, it seems there is no one better or more devout to commit herself to reuniting park visitors with the carousel’s unique charm.