PELHAM PARKWAY — Last month, standing before a dilapidated white barn on Pelham Parkway South, a group of animal activists, community leaders and elected officials rallied to get the horse inside — a horse that’s come to be known as “Rusty” — moved to greener pastures and out of his Bronx stall, where the city had issued a vacate order last year.
But now a small group of area residents say they’d rather see Rusty stay put. They’re planning to help the stable’s owner repair the rundown barn in the hopes of one day turning it back into a functioning horse corral, according to Gene DeFrancis, an actor who lives nearby who’s organizing the cleanup.
“I grew up with the stables—it’s been there for 50 years,” he said.
Decades ago, the stables at 1680 Pelham Parkway South had been a popular place for children to take horse rides, but it’s since fallen into disrepair, as the owner fell behind on property taxes. The site has been an eyesore for years, according to community leaders.
But DeFrancis, 32, believes the stables could be a resource for the neighborhood again. He said he reached out to the stable’s owner after seeing stories in the news last month, and he’s been posting on community Facebook pages to garner support for his cause.
“There’s something here, too, that the community needs,” he said. "We're running out of activities, besides watching telelvision and playing with our phones."
DeFrancis' initial worry was that efforts to relocate the horse were related to the plot of land next door to the stable, where a developer had planned to build a seven-story, 91-unit housing complex called Pelham Parkway Towers.
But that project is at a halt due to financing issues, according to David Herrera, a principal at MJM Construction. The company is no longer looking to develop affordable housing there — which was the original plan — but would ideally like to build market-rate apartments if they can secure the funding, he said, or sell the property if they find an interested buyer.
“We’re just waiting right now,” Herrera said.
Eric Soufer, a spokesman for State Sen. Jeff Klein, who launched the effort to have Rusty moved from the rundown building, said they have no intention of trying to move the stable. Their main concern, he said, is for the animal’s safety.
“It’s really got nothing to do with the stable. The whole Rusty thing is [about] getting the horse out,” he said.
The stable has been a problem spot for the community for years, Soufer said, with a history of disrepair and unsanitary conditions. A spokesman for the city’s Department of Finance said the owner has not paid property taxes since 2007.
Reached by phone earlier this week, the owner, Buster Marengo, did not want to comment publicly about the stable or his horse. He said he is the owner of the site, identified on property records as belonging to M.O.L. Realty, Inc.
“The place was a mess,” said John Fratta, former district manager for Community Board 11, who said the stable had been an issue for the board for years. “This really has not been a benefit to our community. It’s really been an eye sore.”
That’s the image DeFrancis said he’s trying to change. He’s been meeting with Marengo, and says that despite the property’s rundown appearance, Rusty and the other horses boarded there are well-cared for.
DeFrancis says that he and a few others will be at the property on Saturday to start cleaning up the front lawn and to put up a fence. Marengo and Rusty the horse are scheduled to be there to meet with the community, he said.