Knight said he has paid his amusement tax but has not been able to afford his rent to the city, a little more than $2,500 a year. To him, the tiny amount of money owed means that the city is looking for an excuse to force him out and replace the carousel, either with another one or another attraction.
Over the years, Knight said, the city has issued a stop-work order on a new concession stand — he had no permit — and made him stop selling popcorn outdoors because of an ant infestation. He said ridership on the carousel has suffered because the Inner Harbor has changed and doesn't attract as many families as it used to. He said he did his best business when festivals still came to the harbor.
"I'm not the reason the Inner Harbor is faltering," Knight said. "But I can bring it back."
Vandals and time have damaged the hand-carved animals. At least four horses are missing and in barns awaiting repair. One leg on each of two roosters is gone, as are ears and other small body parts from frogs and pigs. Many of the animals are cracked; students from Howard County High School paint the animals every year.
"The city needs to help us," Knight said, noting his attraction is among the cheapest — if not the cheapest —activity at the Harbor. "When the harbor is full of people, we're full. ... What do they want us to do, raise the price and take it out of the pockets of little kids?"
Knight said that he's fielded questions from others interested in the carousel, including the B&O Museum, Symphony Woods in Howard County, and a park in Montgomery County.
The Baltimore Development Corp. and the city solicitor's office said Knight has no recourse but to leave the Inner Harbor. They say Knight has breached the terms of his 1999 monthly carousel concession agreement.
A "termination of agreement" letter sent by the city's law office is to the point, stating that if Knight fails to dismantle and remove the carousel, "the city reserves the right to remove it" and sell it. "The city will have no obligation to store the carousel so that it is protected from harm caused by the elements, or by any person," the letter adds.
Brodie faulted Knight for failing to maintain the attraction and for not keeping it open on a regular summer schedule. "We have been patient to a fault with Mr. Knight," Brodie said, noting that he, too, laments the loss of the attraction.
"In terms of life as we know it, the carousel lasted a very long time," Brodie said. "We appreciate it. But we have to deal with facts on the ground. We would have preferred that he had done well. But in 2012, the year that we're in, that kind of facility can't make it financially anymore."