The Last of the Coney Island Carousels Leaves New York

Coney Island
Photo: Getty Images

Two years ago, the city purchased the 76-year-old Bishoff & Brienstein Coney Island Carousell (sic), the last of what was once a 25-carousel fleet at Surf Avenue and 10th Street, for $1.8 million and enlisted master carousel restorer Todd W. Goings to refurbish the ride. Two years ago, Goings and his men carefully Bubble Wrapped the 50 steeds and shipped them back to Marion, Ohio. Tuesday, they came back for the rest of the old grande dame, and it will take two more years for the revamped carousel to come back to its new home, in Steeplechase Plaza, the “new iconic civic and entertainment destination” in Coney Island being spearheaded by Mayor Bloomberg. “That’s how city things work,” drawled Goings. “Stage-by-stage.”

The work is stage-by-stage, too. Once in Marion, Goings's team of merry-go-round men will spend "hundreds of hours" removing the original paint and painstakingly applying coat after coat of varnish in the original color, selected using vintage photos from newsreels that he has asked the public to submit as a guide. Our steeds are “very restorable,” Goings said. “They don’t have missing legs and have all their eyes and tails and ears.”

But it will still likely cost a bundle: Goings wouldn’t tell us what he's billing the city, but he did charge Philadelphia's Please Touch Museum around $1 million for a comparable job. So, how does one get into this line of work, anyway? Goings, whose business, Carousels & Carvings, plays doctor to up to fifteen rides a year (including carousels in Prospect Park and on the Santa Monica Pier), was once a furniture-maker, until he was asked to restore a park ride in his hometown. It was then he found his true passion. After all, he said, “Tables don’t have eyes, ears, and noses.” —Sarah Maslin Nir