Oct31 The Carousel
The river had listed on all sides. To the east, it was suffocating the grassy banks of Brooklyn Bridge Park; a mile across the water, the concrete roadways that surround Manhattan had been buried at sea. Yet amid the howls of the wind and and wickedness of the storm, there it stood: A magical island of wooden horses, riderless in the storm, floating in place in what was now the middle of the East River.
A carousel — Jane’s Carousel — its bright lights piercing a hole in the darkness.
I’ve walked by Jane’s carousel countless times in Brooklyn. It once lived at 56 Water St., a few blocks from its current home on the edge of the river. If you sit on the grassy banks, chipping away at an ice pop, you can hear its heirloom sounds playing in the distance as you watch the city trumpet along to itself. You can see it if you wander past in the rain, a cold sleet pummeling the glass stable that is home for these 48 wooden horses. And you can see it from both bridges while sitting on the yellow and orange plastic tub seats of the Subway.
Jane’s Carousel, like so many New Yorkers, isn’t actually from New York. It was first built in 1922 by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company. Back then, it was simply called “No. 61.” After living in Ohio for decades, it was purchased by Jane Walentas in 1984, who then spent the next 27 years painstakingly restoring the carousel back to its original detail.
Although I’m now 3,000 miles from The City, looking at the pictures flow by on Twitter and Instagram, I felt like I was there; huddled in the dark with my friends and co-workers as the wind screamed with a vengeful anger, trying its best to pummel New York City. Yet in the scowl of the hurricane, those wooden horses, painted in white, brown, silver and gold, were as stout and resilient as the people hunkered down in the city around them.
No one knows if the carousel stayed lit throughout the night, or if it eventually fell to darkness, too. But in my mind, the lights stayed on all night long. As a crane ominously dangled from a skyscraper in midtown, as subways and homes flooded, as a power generator exploded and a blanket shrouded southern Manhattan in darkness, the carousel stayed lit. A heartbeat for a city under siege.