NEW BRIGHTON — The Staten Island Zoo is hoofing pony rides offered for decades to make way for a new carousel.
The rides, which have featured for more than 20 years, will shut down to clear space, the Staten Island Advance originally reported.
"The anticipated openings in the near future of the Conservation Carousel and the Amur Leopard Habitat, both of which closely adjoin the pony track area, call for a review of the use of that facility," a spokesman for the Zoo said in a statement.
"As the summer season ends, we believe that the time is appropriate for a review of attractions and exhibits that effectively serve our community’s desires."
But Stephanie Zuzworksy-Bennett, owner of First Place Ponies Inc., which has had a contract with the Zoo to run the rides since 1998, said the loss of the stable would be a blow to the children who love her animals.
"It's not fair to the kids on Staten Island," she said. "Where else can you go for pony rides on Staten Island? They are few and far between and it's getting more difficult in New York to be able to do that."
The zoo's spokesman didn't say when the ponies would need to move, but he said camel rides or pony rides run by the zoo itself could eventually replace the current stable.
"It just kind of stinks to un-employ our ponies and start your own someplace in the zoo," Zuzworksy-Bennett said.
The zoo's spokesman said Zuzworksy-Bennett would be given time to relocate, but she said she hasn't been able to find a local spot to keep her six ponies.
She said she'd rather stay where she's worked for 26 years.
"I really feel a loyalty to the people that have been riding for years," she said. "We have so many grandparents that are bringing their grandchildren that used to bring their children."
Zuzworksy-Bennett also worries that her ponies — who are creatures of habit — will have trouble adjusting to new settings, especially her oldest, Apache, 30.
When they last tried to retire Apache to a farm in New Jersey several years ago, Zuzworksy-Bennett said he went on a "hunger strike" until he came back to the Zoo, and she worries about what the new move will do.
Zuzworksy-Bennett has started to let riders know about her upcoming eviction and they have rallied behind her to try and stop the move.
A rider created an online petition last week to convince the zoo to leave Zuzworksy-Bennett's ponies there. The petition has generated more than 2,200 signatures, and comments have flooded in about how much the rides mean to some families.
"These pony rides are part of my family history," Morgen Formen wrote on PetitionBuz.com. "It's an integral part of my zoo visits."
For Zuzworksy-Bennett, the flood of support has been overwhelming and she hopes somebody listens and keeps the stable where it is.
"I would love to keep them on Staten Island, because Staten Island needs this," she said. "There is such a lack of agriculture awareness in New York."