KENSINGTON — The stable that's provided horse rides in Prospect Park since the 1930s is up for sale — and the local city councilman is demanding that the new owner keep the equestrian center running.
City Councilman Brad Lander is calling on whoever buys Kensington Stables to preserve it as one of the city's last few homes for horses.
The stable was due to be auctioned off in a bankruptcy sale Thursday, but the auction was postponed after Lander announced he would not support a rezoning of the property that doesn't include a commitment to preserve a horse stable there.
"I am writing to make clear that the community strongly supports the preservation of a horse stable at this location and that bidders should be clear about this expectation," Lander wrote in a letter to the broker handling the sale.
Hours later, the sale was postponed, Lander's office announced. The broker handling the sale declined to comment, but said the sale was postponed "well before" he got Lander's letter.
Walker Blankinship, whose family has run the stables since 1993, said his family had no choice but to sell the property to satisfy outstanding tax bills that his father, now deceased, failed to pay.
"The horse business is a difficult business, and my father had not kept up with the taxes," Blankinship said as he mucked out a stall early Monday afternoon. "We want to keep the stables, but we have creditors and they have to get paid and to do that we have to sell the property."
Ideally, a developer will buy the property and create something similar to Mercedes House, the Hell's Kitchen building that has stables for the NYPD's mounted unit on the ground floor and high-end rentals above, Blankinship said.
The stable, a block from Prospect Park at 55 Caton Place, is being marketed as a "redevelopment opportunity" and bidders are encouraged to start at $2 million, according to an ad for the property.
The property is a brick warehouse that's currently zoned for heavy commercial use. Residential development there would require zoning change and would need Lander's blessing to move forward. The surrounding neighborhood has grown increasingly popular recently with home buyers priced out of Brownstone Brooklyn.
Blankinship, known to some Brooklynites as the mysterious horseman of Franklin Avenue, became involved with Kensington Stables as a teen when he bought a palomino mare named Golden Miracle so he could learn how to ride. Blankinship boarded Golden Miracle at the stable and his family ended up buying the facility when the previous owner fell on hard times.
"Everybody loves it," Blankinship said of New Yorkers' love for the stables. "But it's a hard business. It's like farming — you have very expensive land, very hard work, and a lot of regulations you have to follow."
Today the stable has 30 horses and ponies, from massive Clydesdales on down to ponies that make appearances at children's birthday parties. The most well-known of the bunch is probably Tonka, who made an appearance in a "Game of Thrones" spoof on "Saturday Night Live," with Leslie Jones in the saddle, Blankinship said.
The steeds also play a key role in the city's cultural traditions, Blankinship added. He walks a horse named Mordecai through the streets of Midwood for the Jewish holiday Purim, and the animals star in other festivities throughout the year.
Kensington Stables was built in 1930 as an extension of a nearby riding academy that had opened in 1917. It provides trail rides in Prospect Park as well as therapeutic horsemanship programs with the nonprofit Gallop NYC.