New York’s Last Bastion of Freedom: The Federation of Black Cowboys

Photos by Brian Broderick, Poems by Josh Shaffer

In May of 2013, Brian Broderick and I ventured out to Howard Beach to visit Cedar Lane Stables, the home of the Federation of Black Cowboys.  The above project is a photo-essay we put together inspired by this visit.The stable closed in 2016 following the running of a number of skewed articles in 2012 which insinuated conditions were unfit for boarding horses.

I saw those horses, and they looked happy and healthy.

The Federation had held the land since 1998 when they were granted a concession to operate on the city owned parcel of land.  During the years they operated they traveled the US performing assembly’s for children across the country.  They providing riding lessons to NYC children, and could often be found trotting their horses through Prospect Park.

By the time I arrived, the group- which often hung out at the stable 7 days a week, seemed quite heavy-hearted.  The city was coming down on them hard to make renovations or they would have to leave.  In spite of the facts, they seemed to be enjoying their last days as much as possible, sipping on red wine and puffing on cigars.

A member cordially known as mountain man, the official cook of the Federation, gave me a tour of the cabin on site which was full of furs and instruments similar to what would have been used on the American Frontier.  He was a purist, only cooking with cast iron and charcoal.  Reminiscing of his younger days, he told me of the numerous rodeos he competed in and the number of broken bones he collected along the way.  He seemed the most sullen of all- stating he did not know what he would do if the stable would close.

In 2016 when it was time to renew their license, Cedar Lane Stable’s concession to run the park was denied.  It is now run by a NYC backed non-profit GallopNYC.

When asked for comment on way the Cowboys were denied the concession, the parks department stated, “GallopNYC’s demonstration of long-term financial solvency, along with a solid operational plan that will positively affect the local community, as background for its decision to award GallopNYC the license agreement.”

Money talks folks.

 

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2 responses to “New York’s Last Bastion of Freedom: The Federation of Black Cowboys

  1. GallopNYC has offered to board the Federation’s horse at the stables, and that we support the Federation’s programs. We have offered to board the horses at cost, meaning we will not make any money on the board. I am not sure what “NYC backed” means – we are 90% funded by private funds, tho we do have two city funded contracts, and we pay the City for the license to use the Park . GallopNYC is a non profit that uses therapeutic horsemanship to help riders In NYC with disabilities walk, talk and learn, inspiring them to live their lives as fully, independently and productively as possible. Most of our riders pay no fees or discounted fees and our riders are from diverse and low income communities.

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    • I appreciate the comment Alicia. I think the services GallopNYC provides to the disabled and our veterans are very valuable. Working with Animals can be extremely therapeutic and beneficial. It is great that the organization offered to board the Federation’s Horses at no cost to them. However, there is a difference between having ownership over something and being allowed to use a space- it is patently not the same. The point is this, the Federation of Black Cowboys is more than an organization that rides and takes care of horses; it is about a specific way of life- it was not an accident they called themselves cowboys- an iconic symbol of freedom. These piece is by no means an indictment of GallopNYC, it is more a commentary on the process by which the Federation was pushed out of Cedar Lane Stables by the City of New York.

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