Joy Tirado operates the Western Riding Club on Pidgeon Meadow Road in Auburndale, an anachronistic horse stable surrounded by one-family homes in a residential part of northeast Queens.
The stable was built in the 1900s and was originally part of the Schaaf Farm, which dates back centuries. It is one of the few remaining active horse stables in a residential community left in New York City.
But that could be coming to an end soon. Tirado was notified by her landlord, who lives in a house next to the stables, that he was looking to sell the property. He has given Tirado a chance to buy the property, but she would need to raise $60,000 by the 19th of this month, and pay the remaining $800,000 by August.
A seemingly impossible amount to raise given that Tirado doesn't have a steady income and operates the stables as a labor of love as opposed to an actual money-making enterprise. Tirado welcomes the local community to ride the horse free of charge, and hosts school groups and cancer patients going through therapy.
“Ten days to come up with a down payment is highly unlikely,” said Tirado last week.
Tirado took over the stables in July of 2010. Through donations from the local community and the help of her family, she fixed up the stables and updated the electricity. All told, she put about $15,000 into the renovations. She currently pays $600 in rent on top of the cost of taking care of the seven horses, most of which were rescued animals.
State Senator Tony Avella wrote to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) in June of last year requesting that the property be landmarked.
“If it's landmarked, the new property owner won't be able to destroy this,” said Avella. “It's a wonderful community resource that unfortunately we might lose.”
However, the LPC denied the request based on the lack of architectural significance, but Avella said he is contesting the ruling arguing that that site should be considered instead for its historical significance.
“Nobody is arguing that this is an architectural beauty,” said Paul Graziano, a local preservationist and and a candidate for City Council. “What makes this property unique is that it's been in continuous operation with horses and stables and agricultural uses for 300 years, but at least in this current operation for over 100 years.”
Last week, community residents held a rally supporting the riding club.
“If the city had any brains, they would give this man a fair purchase price for his property and run this facility as a place for children and adults,” said Beverly McDermott of the Kissena Park Civic Association.
Sandra Darcy lives just blocks from the stable, and brings her Girl and Boy Scout troops to the stable to complete merit badges, as well as her own kids.
“My kids have really bonded with the horses,” she said. “It's a place you can go without leaving the city to get a little peace and a sense of nature outside the busy parks.”
Tirado, who was recently laid off from her job as a system design specialist, lives in Park Slope and commutes to the barn seven days a week. If she is there late and too tired to get back to Brooklyn, she'll often sleep on the couch of a stable neighbor.
She hopes that same community goodwill will help her raise the money to save the place.
“The community supports this barn in so many different ways,” said Tirado. “If we are successful in saving this place, I want to change the name to 'It Takes a Village Ranch,' because it took this whole village to save this barn.