A Horseless Proposal - Street Week


By Chloe Kent

Photo by Sagie.

Horse-drawn carriage rides around Central Park have been a mainstay in New York City for decades. Throughout the year, sleet or snow, thousands of people, tourists and New Yorkers alike, fork over their $110 or so to take to take a 45 minute ride around the park. Mayor de Blasio, however, will not be one of them.

In support of the major’s vision to create a more humane city, de Blasio hopes to bring an end to the “inhumane treatment of carriage horses” by pushing “an immediate ban on abuse,” claims his website.

De Blasio, who took office on the first of this year, has pinned down several other key issues he hopes to tackle while in office, including food insecurity of low-income New Yorkers, more affordable homes, and safer streets.

The act would effectively retire all carriage horses to nearby sanctuaries and replace the animals with electric cars in homage to vintage cabs of yore.

De Blasio’s vision for a more humane New York City also extends to shelter animals, as well. The mayor is seeking to protect animals without homes by promoting shelters, more strictly regulating pet dealers, and banning the sale of dogs from puppy mills. In addition, the major is working to restructure the non-profit organization responsible for homeless animals, Animal Care and Control, in accordance with Borough President Scott Stringer’s 2013 report on the subject.

A New Yorker cover last month, entitled, “The Cart Before the Horses”, depicted a man pulling along a cart of horses along Central Park. The illustrator of the cover, Bruce McCall, told the magazine, “I’m on the side of the defenseless animals, but the other point about horses for me is that they clog traffic. I drive a lot in New York, and getting behind one of those carriages is a roadblock. They commandeer the road; they’re turning onto Seventh Avenue or Eighth Avenue to go to or from the stables, and all traffic has to stop for them. They always take precedence, and that seems weird. A nineteenth-century traffic jam in this day and age seems silly.”

Though not everyone sees a horse-drawn carriage ban as such a practical solution. A Quinnipiac poll found that 64 percent of New Yorkers supported horse-drawn carriages. The union that represents the 300 or so cart drivers and stable workers is predictably against the ban. Actor Liam Neeson wrote an op-ed last month in The New York Times, citing the industry’s well-maintained care standards (“Every horse must be licensed and pass a physical examination by a veterinarian twice a year”) and deeming the proposed ban “a class issue” for immigrant cart drivers in danger of losing their jobs.

Exactly when and under what terms the ban will take effect have yet to be announced. Although the mayor vowed to end carriage rides by the end of his first week in office, during a recent Google Hangout following his first 100 days in office, the mayor told his constituents that he expected to see the ban take effect by the year’s end.

Perhaps a friendly ride between Liam Neeson and Mayor de Blasio will open minds and speed things along.