Raise the hoof: Stables’ new owner seeks city’s okay to turn old barn into swanky human-horse housing

Saved: The owners of Kensington Stables, which was set to go to auction on June 22, instead are working out a deal with the city to purchase the barn, which will continue to operate as a public horseback riding facility once the negotiations complete.
Photo by Jordan Rathkopf

He’s on his high horse!

The Red Hook industrialist who recently bought Kensington Stables unveiled plans to turn the beleaguered barn into a “state of the art” horse-riding facility for Prospect Park–goers — but first wants the city to sign off on an application to upzone the property so he can build revenue-earning housing above the pony palace.

“We want to sit down with the city and go over the things the park needs to make it really viable for a horse stable,” said concrete magnate John Quadrozzi, Jr., whom this newspaper revealed as the barn’s dark-horse buyer last December.

Quadrozzi’s proposal calls for building seven new stories atop the stables, which would contain 12 rental units that he said will rake in cash and allow him to rebuild the dilapidated barn that is still under a city-issued vacate order after inspectors in December discovered a partially collapsed roof, rotten ceiling joists, and bulging brick walls that a Department of Buildings spokesman called a “significant safety hazard.”

And once the barn is renovated, the tycoon said he plans to re-brand it as Prospect Park Stables, and hopes to move forward with a latent plan to turn a patch of the nearby green space into a premier equestrian trot spot.

“Something as wonderful as an actual riding arena in the park would be a home run,” Quadrozzi said.

The local councilman said he is open to permitting development of the stables in some form — whether through a zoning variance that would allow for a taller mixed-use structure, or by selling the air rights above the barn to a builder working on a nearby project — but that he would first need Quadrozzi’s firm, long-lasting commitment to maintain a community riding facility for far longer than the five years he agreed to in his deal to buy Kensington Stables from its former owner, the Blankenship family, which was forced to sell the property to pay off debts accrued by its late patriarch.

“John made a commitment for five years — that’s not long term preservation,” said Brad Lander (D–Kensington). “I want to make sure we really conserve the long-term future of the stable.”

Quadrozzi said he has no problem with agreeing to maintain stables indefinitely as long as the city okays his plan to make the property profitable.

As part of his makeover of the stables, Quadrozzi wants to piggyback on an agreement between the Department of Parks and Recreation and local equestrian organization Gallop NYC to bring a riding arena to Prospect Park’s Parade Ground, located just a block from the tycoon’s Caton Place barn.

The Parks Department secured funds for the enclosed arena via a joint grant from Lander and Borough President Adams in 2014, and designs already exist, according to Gallop’s head Alicia Kershaw. But the project stalled when the future of Kensington Stables fell into jeopardy, and Gallop allowed a transfer of the funds reserved for the riding arena to the city’s Economic Development Corporation so that agency could put the cash towards a bid to buy the barn, Kershaw said.

“When it looked like the only way to stave the stables was to move the money and buy them, we authorized its repurposing,” she said.

Now that Quadrozzi purchased the facility, however, those funds are expected to revert to the arena project, and the barn’s new owner — whose concrete company once rebuilt part of Prospect Park’s bridle path — hopes to partner with Gallop by offering the group stable space in exchange for use of the riding grounds, he said.

“We’d love to host Gallop’s horses and be able to access the arena,” Quadrozzi said.

And leaders of the Prospect Park Alliance, which maintains the meadow in conjunction with the city, remain amenable to bringing the arena to the green space, according to Lander.

But local equestrians should not expect to trot around the facility anytime soon, according to Kershaw, who said it could take several years before the arena plan makes its way through the city’s slow-going approval process for capital projects. “If everybody today said, ‘Lets do it,’ it’s at least three years away,” she said. “It could happen, but it’s not happening in a short time.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.

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