Reuters (April 28):
Yet another unique New York institution is set to disappear when the last riding stable in Manhattan closes its doors during the weekend.
Claremont Riding Academy, said to be the oldest continuously operated stable in the United States, will shut its stable doors at 5 p.m. on Sunday.
The stable has been a fixture on the upper west side of Manhattan since it opened as a livery stable in 1892, six years before the automobile began to negotiate city streets. It has operated as a riding academy since the 1920s, giving lessons and renting horses for rides in Central Park.
Claremont owner Paul Novograd said he was not at liberty to say whether the building, which is located two blocks west of Central Park on West 89th Street, had been sold.
But New York City Parks and Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe said it was widely known that the building was being sold to developers and he understood that it is going to be made into condominiums. The building is a landmark, so it won’t be torn down, he added.
Several dozen people turned out on Saturday to protest against the stable’s closing, but the demonstration was not expected to affect the outcome.
On Friday, trainer Karen Feldgus, who has worked at Claremont for more than 18 years, was giving her last lesson at the stable to a group of 10 people who were riding to music.
Feldgus began to cry as the music began playing. ‘These (horses) are all my best friends. I’ve ridden all of them,’ she said.
Novograd said the horses would go to good homes. Most will be moved to the Potomac Horse Center in Maryland, owned by Novograd. Some are being sold to their riders, and some are being donated to the equestrian program at Yale University.
Claremont has a small indoor riding facility and stalls for the 38 horses. Instruction included jumping, dressage and stable management. Horses also could be rented for a ride on the bridle path in Central Park.
Novograd estimated that about 60 percent of the stable’s riding business involved children.
Among reasons for closing the stable, Novograd said, were costs incurred restoring the building and problems with the Central Park bridle path.
Benepe said there are no issues with the condition of the path or people using it for other purposes. If anything, he said, the bridle path has been improved over recent years by the Central Park Conservancy, a not-for-profit organization that manages Central Park under a contract with the city.
Novograd said bridle paths were being used for running, dog walking and pushing baby strollers, making it difficult for riders.
The closing of Claremont does not mean the end of horseback riding in parks in New York City, Benepe said, pointing out that there are riding facilities in the city’s other boroughs.
And he said the city is exploring the possibility of one or more of its stable operators setting up an operation under which horses could be brought to Central Park by trailer.
‘We’re obviously not interested in seeing horseback riding leave the park after 150 years,’ Benepe said.
Losing Claremont is a blow not only to those who ride there, but to those who believe such changes erode New York’s character.
New York Times:
Yesterday, Paul Novograd, 63, ended the family tradition, closing the stables for good. Were this some other place, some place out West maybe, the shuttering of one old riding school might have gone unnoticed. But what made Claremont unique was not so much what it was but where it was: in the heart of Manhattan, on the Upper West Side, a few steps from a Papa Johnâ€™s pizzeria at the corner of Amsterdam Avenue and West 89th Street, and less than two blocks from Central Park.
The academy was the oldest continuously operated stable in New York City and, according to Mr. Novograd, the oldest in the United States, offering riding lessons and the renting and boarding of horses. It was a patch of un-Manhattan in Manhattan, definitive proof that the city indeed had it all â€” skyscrapers, a nearly naked cowboy in Times Square and horses you could rent for $55 an hour.
Mr. Novogradâ€™s decision to close the academy shocked many of his customers and even many of his 30 employees. All day yesterday, the last official day of business at Claremont, people stood around as if at a wake.
Upstairs, Chelsea Roberts, 47, who started riding the horses at Claremont in the early 1970s, said goodbye to one of her favorites, Bach. She brought along her 10-year-old son, Maxwell Roberts-Pereira, who learned how to ride at the academy. Downstairs, in the main office just outside the riding ring, someone taped a letter to Claremont to the glass panes of the door: â€œYou are more than brick, mortar, wood, dirt and hay. Your soul is made of all those souls that have come through your doors.â€
And down a muddy, cleated ramp on the sidewalk outside, Christina Valauri snapped a picture and shook her head.
â€œIâ€™ve ridden here, my daughterâ€™s ridden here,â€ said Ms. Valauri, a research director at a brokerage firm. â€œThis is a real loss. I actually feel like I am at a funeral.â€
The riding school was formed in 1927, in a tan-brick building erected in 1892 as a public livery stable. It had escaped death before, when the city condemned and took over the property from Irwin Novograd in the 1960s as part of an urban renewal program. The city never followed through on its plans for public housing at the Claremont site, and in the late 1990s Mr. Novogradâ€™s son bought it back.
But insurance costs, payments on a loan for a $2 million restoration and taxes had become too costly, Paul Novograd said, while business decreased over the years by hundreds of riders on an average weekend.
â€œItâ€™s a wonderful institution,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s a shame it has to go. But I canâ€™t go into bankruptcy. Iâ€™ve taken out a second mortgage on my house to put money into this place.â€
He said that the popularity of nearby Central Park worked against him and the horses. Riders could take the horses for a stroll on the scenic bridle path in the park, but as the path became more congested with joggers and other pedestrians, the pathâ€™s upkeep decreased, as did the number of customers willing to navigate the crowds, he said. â€œThe bridle path has become like an obstacle course, with dogs nipping at horsesâ€™ heels, people pushing baby strollers,â€ Mr. Novograd said.
He declined to answer questions about what would happen to the building, which would be worth millions on the market. â€œI canâ€™t say anything about the future,â€ Mr. Novograd said, though he added that the building could not be torn down because it is a registered national and city landmark.
The ancient Persians believed that the young should be trained Equitare, Arcum Tendere, Veritatem Dicere “To Ride, To Shoot, and to Speak the Truth.”
New York passed the Sullivan Law banning guns in 1911.
I don’t think anyone can remember when Truth was last honored in New York City.
The last riding stable in Manhattan closed April 29, 2007.