Hold your horses!
Kensington Stables — the only place where Brooklynites can rent a stallion to gallop through Prospect Park — is being flogged off in a bankruptcy sale, and the local councilman is getting on his high horse by vowing to block any residential development on the site unless local jockeys can stay in the saddle.
“I’m chomping at the bit to preserve horses in the park,” said Councilman Brad Lander (D–Kensington).
But the property’s broker says the neigh-saying pol may be putting the cart before the horse — the cash-strapped stable’s Caton Place barn was slated to go on the block last Thursday with a starting price of $2 million, but now a dark-horse potential buyer willing to preserve the pony palace has entered the fray, and the auction is off until further notice.
“There’s no bid deadlines, no auction dates, we’re just focusing right now on this interested party,” said Marc Yaverbaum of MYC and Associates, who is managing the stable sale.
The business’s long-time owner died five years ago but had failed to keep up with property taxes in his final years, and now his widow now selling the stables to pay off the debts, according to their son.
“In the end, and things got away from him,” said Walker Blankinship, who manages the stables.
The multi-million-dollar price-tag on the property, along with advertising material marketing the property as a “redevelopment opportunity,” indicates a buyer will seek to demolish the horse hub and erect housing in its place, Lander says, so he trotted out a letter to Yaverbaum declaring his intentions to thwart any attempts to rezone the industrial land unless the developer commits to preserving the stables in some form.
“The community strongly supports the preservation of a horse stable at this location,” Lander wrote to Yaverbaum. “Bidders should be clear about this expectation.”
The entire Council votes on rezonings, but members typically vote in line with the local rep, so Lander holds the reins of power.
Lander bucked against suggestions that he’d be saddling any buyer with a business that has proven unprofitable in the area, claiming that horse rentals are a stable business.
“There’s no doubt it’s manageable, there’s an appetite for riding,” he said. “It doesn’t pay the same amount as condos, but it’s perfectly possible to operate a successful stable.”
Blankinship agrees, of course, and says Lander’s threats to derail horse-averse developers don’t worry him while negotiations with the mystery buyer stay on track, although he acknowledged it could stop others from ponying up if they go belly up.
“That could discourage some buyers,” he said.
The 30 horses at Kensington Stables work for a living, and if they’re unable to stay in their park-side accommodations, Blankinship says he’ll be forced to turn to his friends in the horse-rescue industry to adopt them — although that will likely leave other steeds stuck in the glue business.
“My horses would be fine, but that means other horses would go to the slaughter,” he said.
Fortunately, human-horse co-habitation isn’t unheard of New York’s real-estate industry — the Police Department moved about a dozen horses into a luxury apartment building on the distant isle of Manhattan in 2011.
The smell of hay and manure is even a draw for some — in 2008, neighbors in the seven blocks around the stables made an unsuccessful bid to rename the area as “Stable Brooklyn.”
But Lander thinks the situation is still un-stable — Yaverbaum won’t reveal any details about the mystery shopper and the state of his negotiations with them, and any redevelopment will still likely require the stables to close or relocate during construction.
“I’d like to learn more, what it means if the stable’s closed down, and how long would that be,” the legislator said. “There’s a lot of issues to be considered.”