closed.jpgThe Times has a sad and probably final look at the remaining horses at the Claremont Riding Academy on the Upper West Side. The oldest-operated stables in the United States closed quickly a few weeks ago when its owner said that pedestrian traffic along bridle trails in Central Park made equestrianism unamanageable in NYC. The New York Times reports today that there are three remaining horses at Claremont: Brutus, Tugger, and Monte.

For Brutus, Tugger and Monte, life at Claremont since April 29 has been unusually quiet. Their stablemates — about 45 of them — are gone. The ground-floor riding ring, where parents would watch their children take lessons, seems more spacious. Among the white-painted stalls upstairs, the only sounds are often the whir of fans and the smooth jazz that plays from a radio outside Tugger’s stall. The riding academy — at 175 West 89th Street, a few blocks from the bustle of Broadway — was for decades a 19th-century anachronism. Now, it feels more like a relic.

The three horses do not stay in much. They each do a daily patrol of Central Park, and there are other perks: brand-name feed, vitamins, shredded beet pulp and a pinch of garlic salt in their food in the summer months (to keep the flies away). Their stalls are outfitted with a video camera so they can be monitored 24 hours a day, and the building is also equipped with fire, smoke and, this being New York, burglar alarms.

We can't say we blame the building's owner, Paul Novograd, for unloading his obviously valuable piece of property onto developers in a hot real estate market, although we regret the city's lost a storied equestrian feature that will be nearly impossible to replace. Critics at the time said that Novograd unfairly dumped the stable to condo developers without giving riders and their benefactors the opportunity to make a matching offer. One of our commenters is now making the following allegation:

The city sold the property to Mr. Novograd for a relative song as a subsidy, just as he'd been renting the property for the subsidized rate of $90/month prior to buying it. The subsidy was part of a program designed to keep businesses and jobs in NYC. The intent of the sale was that he would continue to operate Claremont as a stable and provide a unique service as an element to the fabric of the city, and not as just another random real estate transaction. The moment the 7-year term of the subsidy was up, he put the property on the market, and flipped it.

Whoa, now! Really? Why is this the first we're hearing of this? We'll have to insist that Novograd is blameless until substantiating evidence is provided, but that's certainly interesting. Anyone know anything else about this?