Elected officials and community leaders are looking to make Forest Park safer and they may have found their answer: horses.
“Installing permanent stables for police horses would be a great thing for the park,” J. Richard Smith, secretary of the 102nd Precinct Community Council, said. “We just need the funding for it which is going to be tough.”
Over the past few months, two police horses have been brought to the park every morning by trailer in direct response to the case of a man who tried to rape a woman by tasing her.
“That was the impetus, I think,” Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) said. “The attack prompted everyone to meet and discuss the issue of safety in the park. Part of that meeting involved horses but there is also the issue with streetlights that line the roadways that are not replaced when they go out and other concerns.”
A couple of weeks ago, state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), Miller and the Parks Department had a meeting to discuss permanently housing horses in the park. Miller said that he left the meeting feeling optimistic.
Another proposal that has been thrown around is to move the Park Enforcement Patrol training facility, currently on Rikers Island, to Forest Park.
“Horses are good for the wooded areas but I want more police presence overall,” Crowley said. “Bringing the PEP training facility here will increase the number officers patrolling the area but I also would like NYPD officers on foot and in patrol cars.”
While Miller said ideally he’d like to have both the training center and the horse stables brought to the park, he has made the stables a priority.
“I think moving the stables would be better because you’d have the Mounted Unit there permanently as opposed to the training center that would train park police and then transfer them elsewhere,” he said. “They’re both equally important, but if I had to choose, I’d rather have the stables.”
While elected officials were confident that a permanent facility for the horses is in the near future, Smith was skeptical.
“We had a few ideas of where to place the horses, including the closed road by the Jackie Robinson Parkway and Myrtle Avenue, and even the buildings the Parks Department refers to as a maintenance area, but dealing with Parks is tough,” he said. “I hope we get them but we haven’t even gotten into designing the structure or even picking a spot for them to go, so it may be a while before we see anything happen.”
The 102nd Precinct has stables but they remain unused and Commanding Officer Hank Saunter said they’ll likely stay that way.
“There’s nothing to my knowledge that would indicate that they will ever come back to the 102,” Saunter said.
While the plans to bring stables to Forest Park are still in their early stages, Miller said in the meantime, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly assured that patrol horses will continue to be transported to the park for as long as the community needs them.
“The long-term goal is to get more people to utilize the park and the way we do that is to make the park safer,” Crowley said. “Increase police presence, make the park more attractive and then people will begin to come.”