Sandra Brown lives in Staten Island and works in Manhattan; she takes the ferry and walks by the Battery every day.
But on a recent weekday she did not just pass by. Iridescent lights and some catchy tunes caught her attention.
She soon glimpsed an underwater garden — within a clear glass pavilion. Fish shimmered and schooled — and people were riding on them. She had come upon the SeaGlass Carousel on the lowest tip of Manhattan, which took its maiden voyage last week.
“I was on my way to the ferry and I observed the glow from it,” said Brown, who said she was fascinated by the sight.
Thirty flamboyant fiberglass fish in total comprise the carousel. A dozen species of fish are represented, among them blue discus, lionfish and triggerfish. They vary in sizes, with the largest being a 14-foot-tall likeness of an angelfish.
“I think it’s absolutely amazing, it shows children sea life, teaches something that they never knew before,” Brown said.
Just two days into its opening, the carousel, created by The Battery Conservancy and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, had already attracted thousands. Beau Bernie, the opening operations manager for the Carousel, said the debut on Aug. 20 was a big hit. “It was very successful. We opened to the public at 1 p.m., and we had a substantial line prior to the official unveiling.”
“People were here standing in line for two or three hours,” said Asher Coleman, who was selling tickets along the line to shorten waiting time. “I mean, living in New York City, that’s really not an ordinary thing.”
As a late summer night approached, and mosquitos buzzed around from lower bushes, people seemed to be not bothered at all. They were holding $5 tickets, taking selfies in front of the carousel, looking forward to the 3-minute, 30-second ride.
One doesn’t ride “on” the fish, as one might on a traditional carousel, but, rather, inhabit the fish. The ride takes you up and down, smoothly, as on a gentle current. You also hear the waves, amid the recorded classical music. There’s a built-in speaker on each fish, right behind the rider’s head, making the sound loud enough to let you think you are truly undersea. The colors of the fish changes as the ride progresses, with the scales giving off seaborne shades, a reminder of the bioluminescence that blinks under the deep ocean.
The ride also echoes the old New York Aquarium, one of the nation’s first. It was located in what is now Castle Clinton from 1896 until it closed in 1941.
Despite the carousel’s visual and auditory attraction, it’s the ride’s friendliness that makes it unique.
Most of the “fish” can accommodate an adult and a small child; children who are taller than 42 inches can ride by themselves. There are also two stationary Siamese fighting fish that are wheelchair-accessible.
Jon Kapp and family, who recently settled in the city following a move from Thailand, took in the attraction last week. It was his 9-year-old daughter Sadie’s first-ever carousel ride in the city.
“I have ridden in Bangkok, but not here,” she said.
It was also a special day for the family — the 11th wedding anniversary of Kapp and his wife.
“We decided to come to the carousel and celebrate,” he said.