The fight over whether to ban horses from pulling carriages through Central Park is heating up, and the local political establishment is starting to divide over the issue.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he wants to ban the carriages by the end of the year, and his position helped him win the support of animal rights activists during the mayoral campaign. Supporters of the ban say that horses don’t belong in New York City walking through traffic, and they note that the animals have gotten hit by cars.
“Since 2011, there have been seven reported incidents involving horses: two collapsing and one dying, two getting spooked, and two involved in accidents with a taxi and an S.U.V.,” the Times reported.
Under a plan developed by animal rights group NYCLASS, the carriages would be replaced by eight-seat electric cars (pictured at left), presumably driven by the people who now drive the horse-drawn carriages.
But the plan to ban the carriages has also attracted dissenters, from actor Liam Neeson, who has become a staunch advocate for the carriage drivers, to the editorial board of the New York Times. They say the horses are cared for well, and the industry adds a special panache to the city. “We should ask whether this is the New York we want to live in: a sanitized metropolis, where local color and grit are thrown out in favor of sleek futuristic buildings and careening self-driving cars?” Neeson wrote in an editorial.
On the Upper West Side, City Council member Helen Rosenthal and state assembly member Linda Rosenthal have come out in favor of banning the carriages, and Borough President Gale Brewer has been sympathetic in the past (although she doesn’t want any new cars in the park).
But preservation group Landmark West wants to keep the horse-drawn carriages and the Central Park Conservancy has also come out against the plan to replace them. Landmark West is encouraging supporters to sign a petition asking de Blasio to back off.
Top photo by Bobcatnorth.