In a quiet corner tucked away in Van Cortlandt Park, you may hear the sound of a neigh. That is probably May, Benny, Rouge or Pumpkin.
Those are just a few of the horses that call Riverdale Stables their home.
Located at 6394 Broadway, originally built in 1946, there are three outdoor rings and one indoor ring at the stables. They pride themselves on giving opportunities to those who want hands-on experience and do not own a horse.
It is operated through a licensed agreement, just like the golf courses and marinas, said Alexander Han, the chief of concessions at the city’s parks department.
The purpose of a city parks concessions is to provide amenities to the public and that’s just what the stables do.
The concessionaire and operations manager, Scott Tarter, said the stables have 71 stalls with 55 horses.
And in the morning of last week’s park and recreation committee Community Board 8 meeting, he counted 36 school horses. They are used for lessons on the 23-acre property.
“The RFP — requests for proposals — is a competitive process and so the fee offers are not set by the parks department,” Han said. “The fee offer is one of the criteria that that proposers will include in their proposal to us.”
The parks agency sent a notice to CB8 in order to get feedback and thoughts from the community. An RFP was issued for a variety of park concessions and its goal is to get as many proposals as possible. In addition, the revenue that the concessions collect is sent to the city’s general fund and not the parks, Han said.
Debra Travis, chair of the park and recreation committee of CB8 took the opportunity to check on what might need improvements for easier access for the community at large.
“I noticed Riverdale Stables camp is $825 a week, which is expensive for most people,” Travis said.
Riverdale Stables offers summer camp, but it only serves a small number of campers. Its camp at Twin Lakes Farm North Campus in Eastchester gets 65 kids. Meanwhile, Riverdale averages eight, for $6,600 per week for all kids.
Travis presses the fact the stables could bring in more kids if the prices were lower. “That’s a lot of money — that’s a lot of money for me,” she said.
Pelham Bay doesn’t offer camp services, but they do offer private lessons like Riverdale does. But they are only $15 cheaper at $50 for a half-hour private lesson, Travis told The Riverdale Press.
Tarter believes his prices are fair. More than 50 of their kids go away for camp. There are places like International Riding Camp, which is $1,500 a week. SJ Camp is $1,300 a week. Camp Hillard is $1,200 a week.
Lowering the price for camp at Riverdale to $200 isn’t an “impossibility, but I’d have to think about that,” Tarter said. “About 100 to 200 kids in camp — I don’t know if I could staff the camp safely, I’d have to look at the math for that.”
Cost of living in New York is really high, so attracting the right people to work with the horses is very difficult. Getting supplies like feed to the barn, and dealing with waste, also are not the easiest things to get so far into the city.
“I look at the price what I spend on my kids camp and they’re incomparable,” he said.
Keeping a barn has its expenses.
The stables spent $30,000 in the last three years on a riding area surface called footing. Roughly, $2,000 was spent on three brand new washing machines for their basement. “You’d be amazed how much laundry horses create,” Tarter said.
Other concerning feedback from the community was the outreach.
“Scott’s group is doing a good job, but the outreach to let other people know — there is a hyperlocal — application — called Next Door which could be an avenue,” said David Gellman, chair of CB8’s executive committee.
Next Door is an application that can be downloaded onto a smart phone where the community can post what ever they want. Some post advertisements, questions and trusted information. But it is for a person’s specific neighborhood.
Tarter says the stables does a lot of outreach. About 80 percent of them are “moms’ word of mouth.”
“Who makes the decision in the house as to where kids take their lessons? One mom says to another, where does your kid ride? Do you like it? Does your kid take piano lessons?” said Tarter’s wife who jumped on the call when the word outreach came up. “Mom word of mouth is the biggest resource that we have.”
However, Gellman suggested to advertise in newspapers to make people aware of it somehow. Because there can’t be a word of mouth if no one knows it exists.
He relies heavily on social media. A majority of their advertising budget is “90 percent on Facebook and Instagram.”
The stables do about 40 school trips a year. Atmosphere Academy Charter School, Yonkers schools and several public schools make a stop there, he said. And it’s all for free.