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Carousel makes progress on journey to Canalside

Purchase the hand-made wooden carousel. Check.

Find the money to restore a motorized collection of wooden animals built in 1924. Check.

Secure a commitment to place the carousel at Canalside. Check.

Finance construction of a solar power building to house the carousel year round. Finally, that box is checked too.

Much of the plan to feature the Herschell-Spillman amusement park ride at the burgeoning Canalside attraction is now in place following Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's Wednesday announcement that the state will spend $1.2 million to build the facility on the waterfront.

Speaking to about 150 invited guests at Templeton Landing, the governor sweetened a pot of $600,000 announced last year by Assemblyman Sean M. Ryan. The carousel house will house a vintage amusement machine manufactured in North Tonawanda which has been stored in an Ohio warehouse since 1954.

The total cost of the new Canalside attraction is estimated at $2.4 million, with more funding to stem from other sources.

"Ultimately, we'd like to have this on the same terms as what we're planning there for the children's museum," Ryan said late Wednesday. "Something like 60 percent public and 40 percent private. Maybe we can even do a little bit better for the carousel."

Cuomo credited the perseverance of the DeAngelis family of Massachusetts in sticking with their dream of reincarnating the carousel they had owned for many years, and delved into his familiar praise for the state-sponsored renaissance of the Buffalo waterfront.

"That carousel is a perfect metaphor for the past 30 years and the past six years," he said. "We would not give up on the dream for the past 30 years. Some people moved away [from Buffalo], but some people held onto the dream."

He continued his metaphor by likening the new version of the old carousel to a new version of a once-thriving Buffalo.

"When that carousel is rebuilt, it will be a better carousel than it ever was before," he said.

Earlier in the day Cuomo toured the newly restored break wall outside the the Small Boat Harbor and near Gallagher Beach, all which have been redeveloped over the past three years as a state park. He likened it all to waterfront revitalization in Baltimore, and credited the people of Buffalo with sticking to the demand that their waterfront be reclaimed. As he has in the past, he lauded Albany's role.

"The hard part was getting started. The hard part was getting past the cynicism and the skepticism, and getting the people of Buffalo to believe in Buffalo once again," he said in a familiar theme. "That was the hard part, literally convincing the people of Buffalo that there is a future after all those years of broken promises. Now, we have the energy with us and I believe in positive synergy. Just as the way there’s a negative synergy, there’s a positive synergy, and the momentum is with us."

Cuomo, who is known in Albany for paying attention to slight details of megaprojects, even hinted where he would like to see the new attraction.

"I think right next to Clinton's Dish would be perfect," he said, referring to a popular waterside food stand."But I'm not going to say."

Mayor Byron W. Brown said the city will transfer a Canalside parcel, approximately 1 acre in size, to the state's Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. to facilitate construction. The city will charge the state $1, he added.

The carousel will be solar powered to signify the importance of renewable energy and to shine a light on the region's past, when the City of Niagara Falls was the first to transmit hydroelectricity long distance.

With 31 animals in all, along with painted scenery panels and rounding boards, the carousel was stored the last 28 years at Carousel Works in Mansfield, Ohio. Restoration is expected to take about 18 months.

In June 2015, the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation committed $250,000 to buy the carousel. That was followed by Ryan's announcement one year ago of a $600,000 state grant to restore it.

The idea for a solar-powered Herschell-Spillman carousel -- Spillman Engineering Co. made the model coming to Canalside  -- was suggested in 2003 by Laura Briggs, a Cornell University professor hired as a consultant by the Erie County Environmental Management Council to explore the use of renewable energy in public places.

The idea took hold with an informal group that over time became the Buffalo Heritage Carousel that sought a Canalside place for the attraction.

The rare, park-style menagerie carousel will be just the 10th of the fancier Herschell-Spillman models to operate in the nation.


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