KENSINGTON — Facing bankruptcy, the longtime owners of Kensington Stables hope to reach an agreement with the city by the end of the month to sell the family-run operation in the hopes that they can be hired back as the operator after a major renovation.
A new city-owned facility could add therapeutic riding and possibly become a homebase for mounts for Parks Enforcement Patrol officers, said Councilman Brad Lander, who is backing a plan to use $1.5 million previously set aside for the construction of a public riding ring in the Prospect Park parade grounds.
The tentative plan from city officials would need to undergo the uniform land use review procedure (ULURP), including a public review and City Council approval.
At the same time, neighbors will likely be faced with a request to rezone the adjacent property to make way for two multi-use towers from a developer not affiliated with the stables project.
Property owners at 57 Caton Place aim to file a rezoning application to construct a pair of nine story buildings with a ground-floor marketplace and roughly 107 units, said Marcie Kesner, a land use counsel for the building's owner.
At the stable site, the Blankenship family — which has run the Caton Place barn between East Eighth Street and Coney Island Avenue since the 1930s — is selling the property to satisfy outstanding debts. They were headed toward a bankruptcy auction before calls by locals and Lander to preserve the stables were heeded by the city.
The stable owners and the city have yet to sign on the dotted line, but should the sale go through, Walker Blankenship — who manages the stable on behalf of his mother, the actual owner — and Lander would like to see an expansion of the corral's services.
"Ideally, I would like to see it used for public riding, therapeutic riding and possibly have horses available for mounted PEP or Park Rangers," Lander said at a community meeting this week. "The program needs to be shaped out exactly, but that's all dependent on a deal being reached."
If and when the city snaps up the stables, the Economic Development Corporation would take ownership and then transfer it to the Parks Department. The city would then select an operator through a bidding process, with the requirement to renovate the dilapidated stables.
Blankenship said he hopes to win that contract.
It's unclear how long the stables would be closed to riders during the renovations.
There's no way to ensure the stables will indefinitely remain, even if the city does purchase the land, but getting the barn in the Parks Department's hands is a good safety net, explained Lander.
"The great thing about things becoming owned by the Parks Department is that they can’t be unowned by the Parks Department without a heavy process that generally has to include state legislation," he said. "So it's a very strong form of protection."
Bankruptcy judge Elizabeth Strong is leaning on the Blankenships to strike an accord with the city, which will likely happen by the end of August if the deal moves forward.
"We have to move pretty quick because the judge is expecting to see progress by the end of the month," said Walker Blankenship. "The lien holder was very adamant that we were taking too long to find someone to buy Kensington Stables and that’s why we’re in an agreement to agree. It's a weird situation."