Looking Back: For Nearly a Century, Police Horses Had a Home in Tribeca

Soon after it was announced that Troop A would move from Tribeca, the officers posed on North Moore Street to remember their time in the neighborhood. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Apr. 23, 2024

It was 10 years ago that hope finally faded for the return of Tribeca’s stable of police horses, the NYPD mounted unit known as Troop A. For 99 years Troop A had been a beloved remnant of local history, and an extra measure of neighborhood security. Located on the Varick Street side of the 1st Precinct, the stables were “temporarily” converted in 2011 to the NYPD’s World Trade Center Command post, or so officials said. In 18 months the horses would be back, they promised.

But in February 2014 Deputy Inspector Kevin Burke told Community Board 1’s Tribeca Committee that for the foreseeable future, the WTC command center would remain. Yet even then he stood by a commitment made by Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly that the horses would “eventually” return to Varick Street.

“We’re disappointed,” committee member Jeff Ehrlich told Burke. “We were disappointed when we were told it would be temporary, and now it’s seeming to be quite permanent.”

Not long before the stables closed in 2011, the Trib got a last look inside. Following is our story, by reporter Jessica Terrell.

Outside the Police Department’s Varick Street stables in Tribeca, signs of modern life pass by. Commuters stream past, clutching cell phones, cars cruise down the street, and subway trains rumble beneath the sidewalk. But inside the long brick-walled room is a workplace that has remained mostly unchanged for a century. 

The 99-year-old stable is dark inside and cool. Metal fans mounted along the wooden stall dividers create a slight breeze that smells of wood chips and manure, and make a whirring noise that drowns out most noise from the street. Tiny mice scurry along the walls, and horses stand serenely in straight stalls. 

On this late May afternoon, Jaime Cedeño is inside one of the small wooden stalls, using an old rake to remove manure. He then carefully shapes a thick pile of white pine shavings into a perfectly square house bed.

“It’s a small stable, but it’s nice,” Cedeño said. “It’s a good community here.” 

The first floor of the stables is two-stories high. Four tall windows face a brick wall a few feet away, allowing in only slivers of sunlight. 

Pine shavings are scattered across the stone floor, which slopes downward into a drain so that horses can be washed inside during cold weather. In the summer, the horses are often bathed and rubbed down outside the stable, their bridles clipped to a metal ring affixed to the building. 

Washing and feeding the horses, checking for signs of illness, and keeping the stalls clean are just some of many tasks Cedeño and civilian workers perform throughout the day. Caring for horses is in Cedeño’s blood. His father was a jockey, and Cedeño used to care for horses at a racetrack. 

Although much remains unchanged from the way horses were cared for when the stables first opened, technology has made some inroads into daily life here. The horses have electronic ID chips implanted in their necks, their temperature is taken by swiping their necks with a digital thermometer, and they are fed patented NYPD feed. “Everything else is the same,” said a mounted officer as he checked his horse’s bridle, getting ready for afternoon patrol duty. “We have the same building, the same bedding, same techniques, all done the same.”

Some items will be saved for the day when, according to the NYPD, the stables return. The yellow metal grates that sit atop the stall dividers will be put into storage, as well as other original items, according to Inspector Michael Yanosik. But many of the officers believe that day will never come, and their unique bond with this community will be lost for good.

“It’s a sad day,” said one mounted officer, who declined to give his name. “There’s a lot of history here.”