The urban cowboy of the east Bronx is on his last legs.
It’s not looking good for Buster Marengo to remain on his patch of land on Pelham Parkway South where he operates his troubled horse stable.
A judge recently threw out the equestrian’s appeal to bar foreclosure on the property, clearing the way for real estate investor Louis Zazzarino, who bought the deed to the land for $451,000 at public auction in November 2013.
Building and building
The stable’s departure from 1680 Pelham Parkway South will be the last gasp of the neighborhood’s sleepy, scenic past. Marengo’s stable – part of a larger set of stables originally built in 1962 – were once a thriving part of the neighborhood.
“When the buses used to pass by, all you used to see was pressed faces of children up against the glass,” said Cookie Giordano, a horse trainer who used to be based out of the stable.
Today, the rundown stable is surrounded by booming real estate development.
The city’s 911 call center under constructionin the adjacent Hutch Metro Center now looms over the property, and the state plans to build a new Metro North station just a few gallops away.
In April, a company with ties to real estate developer Mark Stagg bought the vacant 13,000 square foot lot next door to Marengo’s stable, where a plan for a housing project, Pelham Parkway Towers, was proposed but never materialized, at a cost of $3.3 million.
“This is the last Alamo of the Bronx,” said Egidio Sementelli, a longtime Marengo supporter. “Buster has been the only one holding down the fort, saving the community from the future.”
Marengo slams haters
With the stable’s days numbered, Marengo has harsh words for the naysayers that he complains have conspired against him over the years.
“Developers and politicians have been working together from the beginning to chip away at my little piece of heaven,” he said in a rambling interview alongside his longtime steed Bronco.
Media, for a longtime, had mislabeled the horse “Rusty”, without the publicity-shy Marengo ever correcting it.
Trouble arrived not long after Marengo took over the stables in 1996. Among the many crushing blows, local authorities removed the bridle path where the horses used to stroll.
“Over the years, little by little, there seemed to be an effort to pull the rug out from under me,” Marengo complained. “Because of my location, because of the opportunities that could exist here.”
The city finally auctioned off the stables in November 2013 after Marengo fell behind thousands of dollars on his taxes.
But the sale was put on hold after Marengo filed court papers contesting those payments.
An eery future
The local community board is now wary of what could eventually rise at and around the old stable site. Developer Stagg has a history of building homeless shelters and other types of supportive housing in the area.
“We are very concerned,” said Jeremy Warneke, Community Board 11’s district manager. “We definitely do not want a homeless shelter here.”
As for the future of Marengo and his trusted steed Bronco –well that remains a mystery.
“I will not discuss my private life,” said Marengo. “That is between me and my horse.”