LOCAL LEADERS AT ODDS OVER BANNING CENTRAL PARK CARRIAGE HORSES

horse

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.

nyclass-electric-carUnder 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.

Should carriages pulled by horses be banned from Central Park?

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Top photo by Bobcatnorth.

NEWS, OUTDOORS | 37 comments | permalink
    1. Jeff says:

      If the issue is truly about animal welfare and nothing else (e.g. developing the land occupied by stables), then a compromise should be fine – keep the horses away from heavy traffic, review and maybe reform the current policies on work during especially hot or cold weather, ensure the horses are getting enough time off and away from town.

      I suppose you could go further and say any industry that involves animal labor is immoral, but you better make sure your hands are very clean (i.e. you are vegan or exclusively eat free-range meat & cheese, do not own leather products, etc.). Mr. de Blasio, who loves him a slice of pizza and I assume doesn’t wear dress shoes made of vinyl, probably doesn’t pass that test.

      • Judd says:

        Jeff,

        Thanks for a measured common sense response. I started out at the beginning of the article thinking that the horses should be removed from the park-and by the end of the comments I felt better educated about the issue and ready to endorse a compromise along the lines of your proposal and Lucien’s below. I have to admit that I was one of those pie in the sky people, who imagined the horses headed to a “bucolic upstate farm” somewhere-but the reality upon reflection is probably closer to the dog food factory scenario. Thanks to all who gave well reasoned responses for educating me.

    2. Manhatan Mark says:

      Mr. de Blasio; Don’t blow what looks like a promising
      political career on an issue like this. People can ride in
      cars anywhere in the world, they can only ride in a hoarse
      drawn carriage here in Manhattan, don’t take that away from
      them. It’s your career we are talking about!!!

    3. denton says:

      De Blasio’s an ass. No surprise there. Also, the NY Daily News made it the front page story the other day, and has an online petition. Join the 70% of WSR readers and 64% who want to maintain status quo by signing..

      https://docs.google.com/forms/d/169J0s-BLtol9XVGl-asgWocTL9m6UdIKepkGTQnHQc8/viewform

    4. Judy says:

      My friend Annabelle, a birder in Central Park, tells me if the horses are rescued from their life of drudgery, it will be their deathknell, because no one will pay to have them stabled and fed, so they will just be killed.

      • ScooterStan says:

        EXACTLY! The tree-huggers envision these “abused” animals freed to spend their days frolicking at some bucolic upstate farm.

        OH, REALLY???

        And exactly WHO will be paying for their upkeep? Eventually the ‘farm” will SELL THESE NOBLE ANIMALS TO SOME MEXICAN SLAUGHTER HOUSE WHERE THEY WILL BE GROUND-UP FOR DOG-FOOD!

        Besides causing the eventual death of the horses, banning them from Central Park will COST HUNDREDS OF JOBS, especially for the basically-unskilled who will have NO WAY to transition to the “Knowledge Economy”.

        BUT, the developers who supported de Blasio will get that super-valuable Far West Side space currently occupied by the stables.

    5. Lucien Desar says:

      Honestly, I hate the smell of horse manure while I am running through Central Park.

      But this issue isn’t about me.

      I think all cars should be banned from the park and horse carriages allowed only to walk there. They should also stable them at the park instead of near the West Side Highway in Midtown. The horses are well taken care of at the stables. The only thing cruel I see is having them deal with car traffic.

      I am very against having electric cars to replace them. It’s too dangerous as it is to have even a few cars allowed in the park let alone allow for tourists being carted around everywhere.

    6. Chris says:

      Chalk this up in the category of “who cares.” Call me when you and Letitia get around to dealing with the homeless problem, encouraging more investment in small businesses, and picking up the trash.

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        Just curious: what policies would you like to see that “encourgage investment in small business”?

    7. jerry says:

      I was parked the other day across from a string of the horse stables. I, too, am concerned about the animals’ welfare, so I crossed the street and talked to a few of the drivers and was allowed to look inside as the horses were being made ready for a day’s work. In short, the conditions were clean and the horses appeared healthy. And when you see them along Central Park South, they look well cared for, an improvement over a few years ago. The do add a panache to the park – whereas these glorified electric toys look like we’re taking another step closer to Disneyland. For better or worse, horses are beasts of burden, and if they are prohibited from the park, it will be their death sentence – no burden, no life.

    8. webot says:

      Too me, its a non issue. I don’t like the smell either, but I appreciate the romance and history of the hansom (handsome?) cabs as my Dad called them. Also he said that the drivers ripped off tourists by hiding the legal rate card. Horses have been in the Park since the beginning and people like them. I do not think the horses are abused at all.

      I wish BDB would drop this, I doubt anyone -besides the fringe “animal welfare” groups that pushed this and for some reason had it in for Christine Quinn – voted for him based on this issue as a “mandate”.

      I appreciate Liam Neeson speaking out – but yet again, as almost always he blamed New York’s favorite punching bag: The real estate industry – to develop the stables.
      I can assure you real estate folks have nothing to do with this. There is no master plot to develop two little horse stables in a manufacturing zone. They can buy the buildings and not renew the lease if wanted.

    9. Peter says:

      Build a stable in Central Park so the horses don’t have to commute!

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        that seemed to me a serious attempt at compromise… proposed by Betsy Gotbaum in a letter to the NY Times. the arguments regarding animal cruelty all revolve around the horses in dense NYC traffic. in addition, a Central Park stables could give them more space. apparently they are pretty packed in and contricted in their current stables.

    10. Helene says:

      The horses add something to the look of the city. Originally the park was designed with the horses in mind and no autos. The horses should stay and be housed in the park which would negate the dangers of walking through the traffic back to their stables. If the idea is to prevent the horses from getting hit by the cars this would work. If we are concerned by the number of horses getting injured by the cars let’s compare that number to the number of people or bicycles getting injured by cars. I think then we will see who the real problem is….it’s not the horses.

    11. Bill says:

      I am pleased to see that most comments are proposing a compromise, which I also believe to be the most sensible solution. Proper care and treatment of the horses appears to be much less of an issue than the areas in which they are currently driven. (1)Relocate the stables inside the park (2)Relocate the boarding area inside the park (3)Limit the travel route to the park only. This would minimize horse/auto confrontations and confine the carriages to the only area to which they can legitimately lay claim to contributing to the “ambiance”.

      • webot says:

        I think the current NYPD Central Park precinct is a former horse stable.

        Can room be made there?

    12. Nick Bacon says:

      I have worked with and ridden horses for over 30 years, and sed to ride at Claremont until that facility was sadly taken from us.
      Unlike the mayor and the non related Rosenthals, I made it my business to see the living and working conditions of the carriage horses for myself. They are lovingly cared for in purpose built stables with plenty of room to move about and interact with each other.

      The mayor’s campaign is nothing more than political payback to NYCLASS (who also bribed – sorry, gave campaign donations – to one of the Rosenthals. NYCLASS is funded by a property developer who covets the real estate occupied by the stables and the man who wants to sell electric replica vehicles. (The vehicle he has on show is nowhere near being “street legal” in New York or any other city.)
      Horses helped build Central Park, and it was designed to accommodate them.
      For a different perspective, read in today’s Daily News about the horse that enjoys a good life here in NYC having been resced from an Amish farm.
      http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/pepper-central-park-carriage-horse-worked-bone-article-1.1760651

      • webot says:

        Nick, please tell us who the real estate developer is.

        Surely there are easier ways to assemble a site.

        and remember its an M zoned and would need to be rezoned.

        • Nick Bacon says:

          webot: The real estate guy is Steve Nislick.

          He was overheard threatening to hit a Daily News photographer at the Car Show where the NYCLASS electric charabanc (which is not street legal) was being shown.

          • ScooterStan says:

            Besides not being street-legal, that electric car will cost approximately $8,000 apiece.

            The anti-horse crowd says it will TRY to help drivers get “private financing.”

            More likely, some mogul will step in, buy a fleet of these things, and then hire people to drive them for minimum wage.

            BESIDES THE CARS ARE BUILT IN DANIA BEACH, FLORIDA.

            FLORIDA!?!?!?

            c’mon!!

          • webot says:

            He is of Edison Properties – of parking lot fame.

            I read up , sounds like an putz and animal lover.

            okay, fine. However i do not think the real estate industry – the eternal boogieman – needs to be blamed – just Steve Nislick.

            Also, they are incredibly patient about assembling development sites over decades, hence the parking lots…

    13. NikFromNYC says:

      It boggles the mind it does, how an UWS that nearly universally voted for an outspoken crony capitalist who declared a ban on traditional horses as a campaign platform, now try to put their own genie back in the bottle.

      • Coulda had Lhota! says:

        Yes. The people get the government they deserve. Hypocrit liberal upper west siders (the same ones decrying the NIMBY homeless shelter) can spare me their crocodile tears as these horses are turned into dog food.

      • Steve J says:

        People didn’t vote simply on the horse-carriage issue. My goodness, if we had to agree 100% with every politician before voting for them we would all have to abstain.

    14. Hanna says:

      Bill de blasio has no problems taking jobs from white working class people like the carriage drivers. If they were minority he wouldn’t do this.

      • JC says:

        I think the idea to have a stable in CP for the horses is a great compromise. It would help keep the horses healthy because they would be out of traffic and NYC – as one one reader stated – would be less closer to turning into Disneyland.

      • Richard says:

        Thank you Hanna for bringing race into a discussion about horses.

    15. Pedestrian says:

      The carriages and horses should stay. Keep the cars both electric and gas out of the park. The horses are well cared for and this is a lovely and traditional source of income for their drivers. The people who want them gone have another agenda.

      Horse draw carriages are welcomed in many cities including Vienna and Paris. Its time NYC stopped giving into well funded pressure with developers in the mix. We want to keep our horses and carriages. Doesn’t the city have bigger issues to worry About like abused children or overcharging by homeless shelter owners.

      • KG says:

        Well said. This is either a reflection of the Mayor’s low political and cultural IQ or his urgency to pay back all his political debts in his very first year in office. First the misguided charter school fight that Clinton had to talk him out of, then the proposal to have the Central Park Conservancy (a private body) share the funds with other parks, and now this. I think the arrogance of this move is what gets me, you don’t just upend decades of tradition in the name of a dubious animal rights issue. There are multiple agencies that already monitor the welfare of these horses, and certainly more can and should be done, including housing them in the park itself and keeping them away from sources of very loud noise (which is what I think killed one of the horses). But please respect the history and significance of this city and show a little more humility in your policy making before making such sweeping decisions.

    16. Terry says:

      These horses are well cared for, well fed, have a roof over their heads, and are patted & fussed over by 100’s of people every week.Not to mention a few hundred people have jobs, and how many 1000’s more come to Central park – in a great park – to see the horses.

      It’s a pity we don’t fret as much over the homeless who line our streets every day
      T
      Pity we don’t fret as much over the homeless who line our streets every day.

    17. Tish says:

      Removing the horses and adding more vehicles to Central Park would be another step in the Disney-ifcation of Manhattan. Our mom and pop stores are being replaced by big box stores, Disney controls Times Square, and it’s getting harder to avoid the chain restaurants and Starbucks. What’s next? A Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang traffic jam in Central Park?

      The horses — which are bred to work and love the engagement with people — are extremely well taken care of (with work breaks, job rules about working under adverse weather conditions, and air conditioned stalls), and animal rights advocates certainly monitor their care. New Yorkers and tourists love the horses and their drivers. And there are hundreds of families that depend upon the carriages for their livelihood. Or are we in fact going to create more unemployed and homeless New Yorkers because some zealot erroneously believes the horses are at risk?

      This is a artificially-created crisis provoked by well-funded fringe advocates who have made an alliance with real estate interests who want the stables. NYCLASS also led the anti-Chris Quinn campaign (“Anyone but Quinn”) during the mayor’s race primary, doing deBlasio a big favor which it seems he is now returning.

      With all the truly urgent issues facing our elected officials, this is what they are focused on?

      A couple of weeks ago I wrote a thoughtful letter to Helen Rosenthal about this matter and asked her to support keeping the horses in the Park. As it seems is her practice, I didn’t get even an acknowledgement, let alone an answer — and I’m a constituent (although maybe not for long as she just might be a one-term Council member if she continues to just vote the deBlasio line instead of listening to those whom she represents.)

      By the way, those silly electric carts won’t cost $8,000 — they’ll cost more than $150,000 EACH. The prototype cost $450,000.

    18. Nureen Murphy says:

      All of this conflict would never have come to pass if the carriage owners had kept the horses restricted to Central Park and not allowed to go into downtown traffic.There is some truth to the statement that the horses were not well cared for until around 2008 when laws were passed governing their hours and conditions. Now they must get a break for at least 6 weeks and in some cases some of them get rotated every 6 months. And it was only recently that they were not allowed to go below 59th Street until 11pm. Prior to that they were at SAKS FIFTH, 34th Street and elsewhere. The should be kept in Central Park. There are even stables that could be used to house them. Currently they – the stables – are being used to store police equipment. They are on the W.86th transverse.

      When Central Park was designed carriage horses were part of the original plan.

      Besides adding an element of animal participation in the landscape of this city and a reminder of what early New York was like and how people lived and traveled, it is also saving hundreds of horses from the slaughter houses – which is an unbearable fate – a horrific death.
      And who in the name of environmental awareness wants more cars anywhere in this city. Where are people’s heads? Not to mention their hearts.

    19. Liz says:

      Frankly, I have no desire to take a horse drawn carriage ride. However, it is clear that De Blasio’s motives are not purely altruistic.

      The property where the stables are located will fetch a pretty penny if sold to real estate developers.

      The horses and carriages are a part of the tradition of NYC. We have already lost so much of our heritage. Let this unique treat for tourists and lovers continue to exist.

      • webot says:

        Again, a developer can buy the stables without banning the horses – see Claremont Stables. the west 50s site is an M zone anyway.

        This has nothing to do with that. This is about a fringe extremist group trying to speak for all New Yorkers and a complacent Mayor who promised them this ban in exchange for their support.

        Sadly, this is often the case in New York politics.

    20. Helen Rausch says:

      I think the horse and carriage tradition lends color and
      panache to the city. Of course, the horses should be
      Treated as humanely as possible, with all due weather
      considerations brought into the matter. May the tradition
      endure!

    21. mad as hell says:

      As usual its human only thinking about themselves and nothing else. Heaven forbid we get inconvenieced let’s not think about the poor animal having to work long hours in the hot sun or coldest winters and then having to stand all night in a stall so small they can’t turn around standing in there own feces as long as we are comfortable who cares about them let’s not mention they can be spooked causing the to run into traffic getting hurt or killed but who cares there just animal put here to serve us as long as we get what we want forget them. you make me sick all of you

      • Nick Bacon says:

        1. The horses are not out in all weathers. There are strict rules about the temperature range within which they can work and the hours that they work. All the horses get 4 full veterinary examinations and five weeks turned out to pasture per year.

        2. The horses live in well ventilated, climate controlled, frequently insected stalls, minimum dimensions 8′ x 12′. The stalls are half height, so that the horses can interact. The horses have straw bedding, which is cleaned out at least daily, and the used straw and manure is taken to a mushroom farm where it used to grow mushrooms.

        3. Horses have been domesticated animals working alongside mankind for thousands of years. Draft horses have been purpose bred for the job that they do. Any horse can be “spooked” anywhere – when riding in the English countryide, I’ve seen them “spooked” by the smell of a fre range pig farm. The only time the carriage horses are in traffic is for the short time each day they travel to and from the park. NYPD horses spend all their time in traffic, and seldom “spook” because, like the carriage horses (and the Parks Department’s horses) they are slowly trained and acclimatised to traffic.

        Nobody seems to be sayng that the Parks & Police horses should be banned, and little mention is made of the 30 horses that died at the race track last year. (There have been a total of 3 traffic incidets involving horse carriages in the last 30 years) Why the disparity? These othr horses aren’t sitting on valuable real estate coveted by one of the mayor’s biggest donors.