The Battery’s SeaGlass carousel wows tourists & residents opening day

The SeaGlass carousel opened on Thursday in the Battery, after more than a decade in the making. Downtown Express photos by Yannic Rack.

BY YANNIC RACK | Exotic fish were bobbing up and down, glowing in softly changing colors and carrying kids and adults of all ages around in a circle.

That was the scene in the Battery Thurs., Aug. 20, as the long-awaited SeaGlass carousel finally spun into life for its first ride.

Only half an hour after the doors were opened at 1 p.m. the line for the attraction, located at the park’s southeastern entrance on Peter Minuit Plaza, already stretched roughly 150 feet.

“We didn’t really know what to expect,” said Warrie Price, the founder and president of the Battery Conservancy, glancing over the patiently waiting crowd. The $16 million carousel was developed by the conservancy, which manages the park together with the city. Price said the line had already started to form two hours before the opening.

“It’s fabulous, I’m unbelievably happy. We went from this incredible conceptualization and enormous amount of work – because it’s a very sophisticated mechanism – to letting go of it and letting people enjoy it,” she said.

Visitors were lining up to catch a ride on Thursday.
Visitors were lining up to catch a ride on Thursday.

It was a long time coming. Ground was finally broken on the project in 2010, almost a decade after it had been conceived in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. The turntable on which the fish in the carousel are mounted and moved was installed in 2012, but Hurricane Sandy brought havoc to the park just two months later. This May the 30 fiberglass fish were finally installed inside the stainless steel and glass pavilion.

The carousel, which ran to midnight the first day, is open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., every month except January and February.

On Thursday, the queue was made up of New Yorkers young and old, as well as some that came from further away. Christina, Millie and Jessica had made the trip from Long Island to celebrate Millie’s birthday and were standing in line for about an hour. Although the three girls range in age from 26 to 33, they only laughed when asked if they had come with kids. “I’m obsessed with carousels and the ocean, so you combine them together and it’s pretty cool,” Christina said.

Standing a few feet behind them were Paul and Paulette Begley from Seattle, who were visiting their children in the city for a week and had brought their two-year-old granddaughter Olyvia to try out the carousel. “Our kids have been following it in the paper for a few weeks,” Paulette Begley said. “It’s fabulous, it looks like you really feel like a fish.”

Paul and Paulette Begley, left, were awaiting their turn with granddaughter Olyvia.
Paul and Paulette Begley, left, were awaiting their turn with granddaughter Olyvia.

Inside the carousel, the seats around the outer part of the platform were mostly left empty even though the line outside grew steadily. “They all want to ride on the ones that go up and down,” one of the operators explained.

The fish all whirl around clockwise but only 18 of them move up and down as well, by up to two and a half feet. Visitors can choose from butterflyfish, an imposing angelfish, a Siamese fighting fish, yellow lionfish, as well as triggerfish, wrasses and a blue discus. They range in size from seven to 14 feet but every single one can hold an adult and a small child.

After their three-and-a-half-minute ride was over, Sharon Arang, who lives in Battery Park City, recapped the experience with her kids.

“We’re very excited. I told my kids it’s a privilege to live down here, and today we wanted to be tourists,” she said.

“It was really fun,” agreed nine-year-old Sofia, the oldest of Arang’s three children. Ari, 4, who rode with his mother, thought it was a little scary.

Arang said she didn’t mind the admission price of $5 per person, but added that it was “pretty steep”. “It’s a treat,” she said. “I don’t think it’s something that we’ll be doing on a daily basis.”

Sharon Arang with her four-year-old son, Ari, inside the carousel.
Sharon Arang with her four-year-old son, Ari, inside the carousel.

Accompanying the family were a neighbor, John Ryan, and his two kids, Jake, 8, and Lily, 5. “They loved it,” Ryan said of his offspring. “I want to come back at night. I get the feeling that’s the real show.”

“Definitely,” agreed Arang. “I’d like to come back at night, maybe with my husband, without the kids.”

“What are you talking about?” her middle one asked, visibly alarmed.

Price, of the conservancy, thinks the carousel will attract even more people in the future, when the rest of the Battery around it is back in full operation. Currently, there are construction sites on two sides of the SeaGlass pavilion.

“As soon as we get all this open,” she said, “what you would hope is that someone could let their kids just run in the woodland, to just play while they’re waiting to get on the ride. And there we’ll have a playground next year. Over time, I think there’ll be a lot more here for families to enjoy.”

She quickly darted off to remind one youngster not to play on the planted green strip just off the side of the queue. When she returned, a look around brought a smile to her face.

“This is our inspiration, this is our project, and we’ve worked on it for eleven years. And look how amazing it is!”


Warrie Price, founder and president of the Battery Conservatory, talking to visitors waiting in line.
Warrie Price, left, founder and president of the Battery Conservancy, was talking to visitors waiting in line.
The 30 fish in the carousel are made of fibreglass and rotate for 3.5 minutes at a time.
The 30 fish in the carousel are made of fibreglass and rotate for 3.5 minutes at a time.
Although each fish has space for one adult and a child, older kids can ride alone.

IMG_6319 IMG_6268 IMG_6294 IMG_6304 IMG_6326 IMG_6327