Black Cowboys seek deal to save barn

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Saying it refuses to ride into the sunset, The Federation of Black Cowboys in Howard Beach is attempting to negotiate a deal with the city on a timetable to pay $60,000 in overdue funds or risk losing their barn, an official with the organization said.

The Black Cowboys, a non-profit corporation that promotes the history of black American cowboys during the western expansion of the United States, has leased a barn since 1997 that houses 40 horses for its 35 members at 83-11 South Conduit Ave., President Edward J. Dixon said.

“We got in the red with our gross receipts — that kind of money is hard to come by,” Dixon said of the organization that has three years remaining on its initial lease. “We don’t want to lose this place, we can’t afford to lose it now.”

Assistant Treasurer Don “Cowboy for Jesus” Rouse said a city audit revealed the organization owed $23,000 in back fees to the city, plus additional fines and penalties that brought the total to $60,000. He said the organization is supposed to pay rent monthly to the city.

Rouse said the cowboys have arranged a Jan. 22 meeting with the Department of Parks and Recreation where they plan to dispute some parts of the audit, arrange a longer timetable to meet their financial obligation and ask for a stay on the payments.

“We are here to promote our history of the forgotten black West,” Rouse said. “We will be at the meeting with our accountant and our attorney.”

Rouse said the cowboys want to pay the city the back funds owed but want to do it over a longer period of time than the current seven months. He said one option could be to pay the $60,000 over the three-years remaining in the nine-year lease.

Liam Kavanagh, deputy commissioner for operations for the Parks Department, said he had spoken with the cowboys and was planning for an agreement on how and when they would pay the owed funds.

“We thought we had worked out a schedule of payments, but to date they have not been able to meet the arrangements,” he said. “We have a meeting with the Federation of Black Cowboys this month to discuss the matter and are optimistic that something can be worked out.”

The Federation of Black Cowboys exists to educate the local community and its children about the contributions of men and women during the development of the West after the Civil War, according to the cowboys’ Web site. Dixon said the organization operates several outreach programs with local schools that teach children respect, patience and courtesy through horsemanship.

Once the members obtained the lease at the site on South Conduit Avenue, Dixon said they had to fix up the barn facility to allow local schoolchildren to come for the field trips and to learn how to care for horses. He said the site includes stables, a ring where people can ride the horses and several other offices.

“We did landscaping, repaired the buildings, put up new gates, fixed the clubhouse and repaired the bathroom,” Dixon said.

Dixon said the organization is soliciting funds from various sources to ensure its barn facility stays afloat and remains an active part of the Howard Beach and southeastern Queens community. He said he hopes the cowboys can foster a deal with the city during their meeting to allow it to operate the barn in exchange for fewer expenses.

“What we envision is a partnership,” he said. “We hope to work with the city.”

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 156

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