Sale of a Stable Threatens What Passes for a Pasture in Brooklyn

New York Times: April 20, 2005


ImageThe Kensington Stables shelter a quiet, rustic Brooklyn intersection
from the rumbling traffic a block away on the Ocean Parkway, from the
stampede of development beyond it, and in some ways, from time itself.
Early yesterday afternoon, children rode ponies down Caton Place, and a
12-year-old Andalusian quarterhorse cross named Emma dozed in an
outdoor pen. A stable worker, wearing cutoff jeans and no shirt, napped
atop a bale of hay on East Eighth Street.

But the recent sale of one of the two buildings that make up
Kensington Stables, in Windsor Terrace near the southern tip of
Prospect Park, threatens to trouble all this calm, according to the
stables’ owner, Walter Blankinship. He said he would have to vacate
that building, called the Little Gray Barn, by May 1, forcing him to
keep all 45 horses that he owns or cares for in the other building,
which he owns.

Besides the stable space, Mr. Blankinship will also lose the use of
a pen outside the barn and parking for several horse trailers.

He said finding room in the one remaining building for all 45 horses
would be a struggle. The lack of space means that he will have to cut
back on many of the programs Kensington Stables offers, especially the
ones that bring children in close contact with the horses.

“We have less space to work, to tour, to operate,” he said. “You
want to provide more lessons, more handicapped rides, but we’re
completely hemmed in.” The cramped conditions, he said, might also make
it dangerous for the young visitors.

Making room for the 13 horses now stabled in the barn would also
threaten an indoor ring, which is where Fran Levy, the stable manager,
teaches therapeutic riding to children with disabilities.

For a few hours yesterday afternoon, the place seemed made just for
children. Sanju Misra said she brings her 2-year-old son, Nikhil, to
the stable several times a week. “Having this place here is a great
resource,” she said. She said the lessons – $25 for half an hour – were
inexpensive. And while she acknowledged that some parents might be put
off if the stable became too crowded, she said it would not deter her.

Akiva Skop, 7, rides Benny, a Mexican mustang, every Monday. His
father, Ira Skop, said Akiva, who has Down syndrome, learned to walk
only a year and half ago.

“The riding has been tremendous for him,” Mr. Skop said. “He’s been
riding for a couple of years, and it’s been great for his balance, and
his self-confidence.”

Mr. Skop said Akiva appeared to have reached some sort of
understanding with the horses in Kensington Stables. “He’ll stand
underneath the flanks of the horse, stroking them,” he said. “They
don’t seem to mind. They seem to know what’s going on with him.”

Mr. Skop said Akiva talked about the horses all the time at home.
“If something jeopardized all that, it would be very sad for us,” he

Ms. Levy, the stable manager, said the only good option was to build
on top of the existing space. Mr. Blankinship said that the stables
were not in danger of closing, but that the sale of the barn prevented
his business from expanding.

He also said the sale broke an informal, longtime agreement he had
with his landlord, Gloria Jarman, that would have allowed him the first
option to buy the barn.

Reached by telephone, Ms. Jarman called that version “sort of true,”
but said Mr. Blankinship was often late with his rent, and she had not
expected that he would have been able to buy the property. Mr.
Blankinship, however, said that he paid his rent on time.

Ms. Jarman said she “got a very nice offer I couldn’t refuse,” but
did not identify the buyer. She added, “You don’t know that I’m taking
a deal from a developer.”

Jay Jones, a retired engineer who lives across the street from the
stables, said: “I moved here because of the horses, because of the
smell. I call it one of Brooklyn’s best-kept secrets.”

The New York Times

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