- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 6, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) — These are uncertain times for J.J., Donny, Maverick and their stablemates in a Manhattan barn.

The 25 horses in Troop B of the New York City Police Department’s Mounted Unit are stabled on the ground floor of a structure along the West Side Highway. But officials who want to build a park in the neighborhood are planning to evict the animals.

Police officials don’t want to lose the West 23rd Street location, which serves as the Mounted Unit’s headquarters. Of the unit’s five barns, only the West Side Highway site is enclosed, allowing year-round training.

The location also is relatively close to Times Square, the Port Authority, Penn Station, the Empire State Building and other landmarks that the unit patrols, said Inspector Harold Kohlmann, the unit’s commanding officer.

“If we lost here, we’d lose all our winter training, and with that comes injuries to horses and officers,” he said. “Hopefully, we can get people to change their minds and let us stay.”

No chance, said Daniel L. Doctoroff, deputy mayor for economic development and city rebuilding.

“As soon as we can find an alternate location for the horses, we want to get them out of there as quick as possible,” said Mr. Doctoroff, who also is vice chairman of the board of directors of the Hudson River Park Trust, a city-state partnership created in 1998 to design, build and maintain the park.

The trust plans to transform a five-mile stretch of the West Side into what it calls “a park for the new millennium.” The planned 550-acre space is touted as the largest open-space development in New York City since Central Park, which covers 843 acres.

Mr. Doctoroff said there are few, if any, available locations for a horse stable in the vicinity.

The only other police horse barn in Manhattan, near the Holland Tunnel, is full, Inspector Kohlmann said.

Two things are keeping the horses, hay and manure along the Manhattan shoreline from being replaced by lush lawns, carousels, gardens and esplanades: the lack of a new home for the unit and legal maneuvering by another tenant.

The horse unit sublets from Basketball City, which rents court space to leagues and donates space to high-school players. The leases for the mounted unit and Basketball City have expired, and the tenants are there on a month-to-month basis.

Bruce Radler, president of Basketball City, has asked the New York State Court of Appeals to hear a lawsuit against the trust. The court has not decided whether it will.

“We’re talking about thousands of New York City kids,” Mr. Radler said. “The horses are very important, and so are the kids.”

Mr. Doctoroff said Mr. Radler’s legal efforts won’t matter in the end.

“We expect to move ahead on the demolition as soon as we can find a location for the horses,” he said.

The mounted unit was established in 1871 and peaked at 800 officers and 400 horses in subsequent decades, Inspector Kohlmann said. Today, the unit numbers about 100 officers and 67 horses, a reduction that began with the invention of the automobile.

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