The sole surviving privately owned horse ranch in the Town of Hempstead is being transformed from a rundown relic into a state-of-the-art, year-round, indoor riding arena.
Along with the face-lift, the facility has a new name: the old Lakewood Stables is now the New York Equestrian Center.
The $1-million revamping of the near-century-old Eagle Avenue facility, one of West Hempstead's oldest landmarks, is a victory for owner Alex Jacobson, who faced foreclosure on the property in March 2011. Jacobson was able to convince Maspeth Federal Savings & Loan he could turn the seasonal center into a year-round operation to produce more revenue so he could pay off a $1-million mortgage.
The new energy-efficient and climate-controlled facility will house a 30,000-square-foot enclosed riding arena, 53 new stalls, a 7,000-square-foot mezzanine with 99 seats, and 40 on-site parking spots.
"This is the last place for our kids to see horses in the whole Town of Hempstead," said Jacobson. "This area has never had an indoor arena. The fact that we can have an indoor arena means that we can be riding while it is raining."
Jacobson, 35, a real estate broker and developer from Baldwin Harbor, said he bought the 2-acre stable in 2006 intent on razing it and building condos. But local residents, who disliked the idea of condos and wanted to keep the facility, persuaded him to rehabilitate it instead. He eventually demolished the dilapidated stables in April 2011 to make way for the new equestrian center.
"We believe that this is a positive step in the right direction to enhance West Hempstead," said Rosalie Norton, president of the West Hempstead Community Support Association. "It also maintains the history of the area and it is an ideal location. We are very happy to see all of this come to fruition."
The upgraded stalls contain private tack boxes, anti-cribbing rails, heaters, automatic water dispensers and 2 inches of padding on the floor to protect the four-legged tenants' feet. Cushioned rubber pavers surround the indoor arena floor, which is made of a synthetic blend of sand, wax, oil fiber and polymer. The dust-free substance is better for the horses' and riders' respiratory systems and will keep neighbors from complaining about dust clouds, Jacobson said.
"This new facility makes it easier to take care of them," said Denise Smith, boarder relations manager and caretaker of the school's 30 horses. "It was built to benefit the horses' health."
The stables are currently open only for summer campers and boarders looking to reserve a stall, Jacobson said. When the facility is complete in late August, Jacobson once again expects to offer therapeutic programs for autistic children and trail rides next door at Hempstead Lake State Park. He also plans to have a grand opening celebration at the end of the summer. "We went through the wringer," he said. "Now it's all behind us. Now people should be knocking down our doors."