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Luxury Units Set To Rise Where Horses Once Trotted

Luxury Units Set To Rise Where Horses Once Trotted

New York Sun 2/28/2008


Final approvals have been granted to begin the transformation of a historic horse stable on the Upper West Side, the Claremont Riding Academy, into high-end condominiums.

According to the plans, which the Landmark Preservation Commission approved on Tuesday, the carriage lift will become an elevator to transport vehicles to a subterranean parking garage, while the wooden hay chutes, riding arena, and stalls will be gutted to make way for nine luxury units. “It’s a building with character and history,” the architect for the project, Sherida Paulsen of PKSB Architects, said. “We are looking for many features to relate back to its original use.” The units, which will include a penthouse with a terrace, will boast wide wooden floorboards and copper and soapstone detailing to evoke country houses or barns, Ms. Paulsen said.

Not everything can be saved. The 115-year-old building’s original wood structures will have to be gutted because they are imbued with the smell of more than a century’s worth of manure.

“Horses and wood: You just can’t get the smell out,” she said. The former owner of the stables, Paul Novograd, sold the five-story building for $14 million last year to a development group that includes James Rinzler of Dominion Management, according to a deed filed with the city. Some interior demolition has already begun, and the developers are aiming to begin marketing the apartments toward the end of 2008.

Mr. Rinzler and a spokesman for the development declined to comment.

While the development is full-steam ahead, some neighborhood residents say they are pained by the absence of horses, which have been a presence on the street since 1892.

“My daughter would check in on the horses every day after school,” the co-chairwoman of Community Board 7’s land-use committee, Page Kelly, said. “It’s going to be a great residence, but we’re still pining the loss of the ability to ride horses in Central Park. It was such a picturesque activity for the neighborhood.”

Until last April, experienced riders could rent horses to ride on the bridle paths of Central Park for $55 an hour. Children and adults could practice or take lessons in an arena on the ground floor. The building, originally constructed as a public livery for horses, has been a riding school since 1927.

In testimony to the Landmark Preservation Commission on Tuesday, a preservationist group on the Upper West Side, Landmark West, asked for “a moment of silence for the Claremont Riding Academy.”

“Not only do we miss the clopping sounds of hoof beats on West 89th Street, but the absence of horses in Central Park calls the future of its bridle paths into question,” a group member said. Landmark West stated opposition to some minor points of the renovation, but the commission overruled and voted unanimously to approve the project.

The building, which Mr. Novograd’s father, Irwin, bought in 1943, was nearly lost once before when the city condemned it for public housing in 1965. Several buildings were torn down in the area, but a fiscal crisis in 1977 scrapped plans to demolish the stable. The family was able to reacquire the building in the late 1990s.

But last April, the Novograd family said goodbye to the stables again, bowing to what Mr. Novograd described as high taxes and the need for extensive renovations. He distributed the 45 horses to a riding school he owns in Maryland, his rural home in Roscoe, N.Y., and the Yale equestrian program, according to a New York Times article. He didn’t respond to messages left at his home this week.

For the several hundred residents who rode the horses in the park, though, one reminder of its days as a stable is a horseshoe carved into the keystone of the central arch.

“If you loved animals and horses, this place was like heaven, and it was always an enormous release from the pressures of a day in the city,” Ms. Kelly said. “We are starting to lose the charm and eccentricities of what makes New York so livable by losing places like Claremont.”