It is an un-stable situation!
If a developer doesn’t knock down Kensington Stables, gravity will, according to a structural engineer who studied the ageing barn in 2013 at the behest of a local horse-therapy group.
“[The engineer] predicted the building would fall down in a fairly short time, and the joints would pull out of the side, and the front of the building would pancake onto the sidewalk,” said Alicia Kershaw, founder and executive director of Gallop NYC, a volunteer group that pairs disabled people with horses to build social and emotional skills.
The Prospect Park-adjacent horse-rental company is in the process of selling off its 1930s Caton Place property after declaring bankruptcy last year, but local Councilman Brad Lander (D–Kensington) wants to block any development there that won’t keep a stable on the site.
A new stable, sure, says Kershaw — but the current one should be put out to pasture one way or the other.
Gallop NYC has partnered with the horse hub in the past, and came to manager Walker Blankinship in 2013 offering to invest $1 million in refurbishing the building in exchange for ownership of eight of the pony shack’s 30 equine stalls.
As a prelude to the agreement, Blankinship allowed the horse therapists to organize an engineering study of the property courtesy of firm J.D. Goldreich, which reported numerous “serious conditions” affecting the structure that require “immediate attention.”
These included a water-damaged roof at risk of collapse, and a parapet wall leaning onto the street that a stiff wind or freezing thaw will eventually topple into the path of pedestrians, according to the report.
Blankinship acknowledges the building has seen better days, but said it poses no danger to man or horse, arguing that the Department of Buildings and Department of Health would’ve shut him down by now if that was the case.
“All stables have to be inspected. So there’s her inspection at odds with the Health Department inspection, at odds with the Department of Building inspection,” he said. “So her opinion is not necessarily carved in stone.”
But the city has cited the stables multiple times for building violations over the past few years, according to city records — including for poorly maintained exterior walls and a shoddy roof.
Blankinship thinks Kershaw’s admonitions may be fueled by resentment that the two never ended up inking a deal, which he says fell through because they “got lost in the details.”
“I guess it might be some sour grapes,” he said.
Kershaw claims Blankinship just seemed reluctant to relinquish the reins of his family business — although she noted that if they had managed to shake hands, Kensington Stables may not be facing the financial and physical problems it is today.
“I believe he was concerned about losing control of the barn, which was ironic, because he would have ended up remaining in control of the barn,” she said.
Blankinship says he is in negotiations to sell the property to an unnamed buyer who is willing to keep stables on the property in some form if there is any new development.