STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Staten Island’s horse-mounted patrols may be riding off into the sunset, as the Parks Department plans to pull officers and their four-legged partners for reassignment to other boroughs.
The borough renowned for its parks will soon be down to three patrol officers and two horses if volunteers interested in keeping the patrols cannot find a way to raise $35,000 — the annual fee to feed and house the beasts — by Nov. 1, said John Mancuso, a volunteer patrol officer for the Parks Department.
“We recently informed the Staten Island Zoo that we will not continue to board our Parks Enforcement Patrol horses at their facility,” said a Parks Department spokesman. “Parks that were patrolled by mounted officers will continue to be patrolled by Staten Island PEP officers.”
The horses will be moved to the Bronx, and the expected savings of $24,000 annually will be realized by the department as it will no longer have to pay the boarding costs of the animals to the Zoo, the spokesman said.
“The Parks Department wants to pull them from Staten Island and put them in Central Park or the Bronx,” Mancuso said. “The $35,000 in New York City’s budget is like a grain of sand on South Beach.”
Although the deadline to move the horses is Nov. 1, Mancuso said the Parks Department is trying to step up the move, relocating the animals “as soon as possible.”
Mancuso contends the savings would be negligible compared to the service provided by the mounted patrols, which have been a fixture in Staten Island parks for about 30 years.
Not only are officers on horseback more approachable, said Mancuso, but the patrols add to the safety of parks visitors.
“I guess $35,000 a year is not worth the public’s safety,” he added. “People are more inclined to talk to us when we’re on a horse rather than just someone walking around in a uniform.”
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Originally published on Monday, October 24, 2011 in the Staten Island Advance