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BY Aline Reynolds |
Police horses the Tribeca community has grown attached to have been lodged in the First Precinct stables since the early 1900s. On Fri., May 20, they could be gone. Perhaps, for good.
The horses stationed at the First Precinct are scheduled to be relocated from the 99-year-old Downtown stables to a mounted unit situated at 34th Street and the Hudson River. The World Trade Center Command, temporarily slated to move into the stable site adjoining the First Precinct quarters on Ericsson Place, would use the site to dispatch several hundred police officers to the area in and around Ground Zero in preparation for the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
“With the construction of the [W.T.C.] and other financial institutions and iconic structures there, it is an assessment of the intelligence community around the world that New York remains at the top of the terrorist target list,” said Paul Browne, deputy commissioner of the New York Police Department. “With that in mind, we feel it’s important there be an increased police presence in Lower Manhattan.”
But Tribeca residents and workers worry the facility will hurt businesses and cause further traffic jams Downtown.
“I feel it’s going to draw too much congestion and disruption to an already disrupted area,” said Suellen Epstein, who has lived on Murray Street for nearly four decades.
The command center, she said, could also heighten the risk of a terrorist attack in Tribeca, which already has potential targets including the diesel fuel-packed Western Union building at 60 Hudson St.
Beyond that, the horse stable, Epstein said, has been “a calm oasis” amid the hustle and bustle of the neighborhood. “It doesn’t seem appropriate to remove such a wonderful emblem of our historic neighborhood,” she said. “Even if they say it’s temporary, it’ll never go back to being a stable.”
“It’s one more loss to the community — people ought to stand up and say something,” echoed David Cleaver, sales manager at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center, located a few blocks away from the First Precinct stables. “I don’t think the businesses down here can survive much more constrictions, between the rebuilding of the streets and the added security measures.”
Ayala Marcktell, founder and chief executive officer of the Tribeca Community School next door, which regularly takes its children to visit and feed the horses, said she is “devastated” that the stable is leaving. “The stable is part of the neighborhood. We’ll miss it a lot. The kids won’t have that experience anymore,” she said.
Four-year-old Owen Rinehart and his 22-month-old brother pass by the horses on their daily walk home from Montessori School of Manhattan, where Owen attends pre-school.
“It’s upsetting for them — it’s their routine to say hi to the horses,” said Joyce Bermuda, the youths’ babysitter. The kids, she said, like to feed the horses apples and popcorn.
Community Board 1’s Tribeca Committee drafted a resolution last week strongly opposing the displacement of the stables and asking that the N.Y.P.D. consider another Lower Manhattan location for the much-needed security center.
“[C.B. 1] recognizes and was a supporter of the 24/7 state-of-the-art W.T.C. security command center being located in [the board’s district], and appreciates [Police Commissioner Raymond] Kelly’s recent commitment to present plans for security to the public in the coming months. [However,] community members have expressed concerns about safety, given that the building neighbors local schools and is situated over the number [one] train Franklin Street subway station,” according to the resolution.
Apart from safety concerns, the command center would greatly exacerbate the parking burden for local residents who have already suffered from severe parking shortages in the area, the resolution says.
Tribeca residents are equally concerned about street closures and traffic rerouting that would likely accompany the “regular and sensitive” work of the W.T.C. security force, according to the board.
C.B. 1 Chairperson Julie Menin and some of the board’s committee chairs will be meeting with the N.Y.P.D.’s facilities management division on Thurs., May 19, to voice the board’s objections to the plan and propose alternative sites. Menin said she’ll be reading aloud written complaints the board has received via e-mail from community members. She wouldn’t disclose possible alternative locations the board has in mind for the command center.
The stables are a “treasured part” of the Tribeca community, according to Menin, and the mounted unit “has proven to be a very effective means of dealing with large-scale protests and crowds” at and around City Hall.
“In my conversation with N.Y.P.D. [Monday], they said the potential move was temporary for a few years until they can find and build the proper place for the W.T.C. command center, but I told them my objection to this, as what can be temporary can oftentimes become permanent,” said Menin.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, she was told, would not finalize the decision to move the stables until the N.Y.P.D. meets with C.B. 1 this week.