By Daniel Krieger
After the collapse of an old horse named Ryder in Midtown in August, a poll by The Animal Legal Defense Fund and Voters for Animal Rights showed that 71% of New York City voters support a ban on horse-drawn carriages. The New York Times reported that Ryder’s collapse “reignited calls from residents, celebrities and politicians to ban the horse-drawn carriage industry, which has existed in New York City for more than 150 years.” Prior to that, this past summer, the City Council introduced a bill that would use horseless electric carriages to take the place of horse-drawn carriages. This has been an ongoing issue for years, and former Mayor Bill de Blasio was unable to deliver on his promise to ban them. Both sides have loudly voiced their views, including Liam Neeson, who recently came out against the electric carriage bill, while NYCLASS strongly opposes horse carriages and lobbies against them. For this next edition of Asking Upper West Siders, WSR got locals to weigh in.
What do you think about horse-drawn carriages?
Time on the Upper West Side: 1.5 years
“I’m personally not a big fan. I think they’re unnecessary. And I don’t think that the horses seem very happy. It rubs me the wrong way. It doesn’t seem right in the city. I feel bad for the horses. Which is strange because I come from a family of cattle ranchers. I’m from Texas, so I’m not really one to judge when it comes to animals laboring. I didn’t grow up on a farm, that wasn’t my upbringing, but still. The horses just seem so out of place here. It’s like a circus exhibit. It makes me sad. I don’t feel like this is where they belong.”
Occupation: insurance broker
Time on the Upper West Side: 60 years
“I’m conflicted because I think that the way the horses are treated is awful. And I think that having them on city streets is not good. But I also think that it is part of New York to have them in Central Park and for people to be able to have those rides. We’re losing so much of the fabric of those kinds of old-fashioned things in the city, so I would like to see them stay, but in the right way. I wouldn’t ban them if we could properly take care of the horses. It needs regulation and care. And rather than have them stand on Central Park South it seems like we have a gorgeous park and not all of it uptown is probably used as much. If there was a way to build an accommodation for them there, wouldn’t that be nice?”
Occupation: tech startup
Time on the Upper West Side: 6 years
“I feel like the horses should not be here. I was recently reading a New York Times article about a horse that collapsed. As a local, I would never go riding on one of those carriages. It’s more of a visiting-New-York thing to do, so I’m not that invested in having it as a service. Plus the horse poop stinks. It’s in the crosswalk here in the park, and my dog likes to eat it. So I have a slight preference toward not having them. But to say the horses are treated poorly is probably an exaggeration. I was reading about the people who take care of them and they said, ‘We love them. These are our animals. Of course we take care of them.’ So I feel that the conditions aren’t that much of an issue. A lot of people make judgments without really knowing what it’s like to actually have a horse in New York City. They are cared for and it’s a very regulated industry.”
Time on the Upper West Side: 25 years
“Get rid of the guns, but keep the horses! Horses are such beautiful animals. They are kind. Even their poop doesn’t stink so bad. I love seeing them in the neighborhood. What I’m upset about is all the pedicabs all over the place, and I think they charge more than the horse carriages. I’ve lived in New York for over 50 years, and I’ve been on a carriage a couple of times. It was something for my wife or something like that. One of the things I did with my kids when they were small was go down at night to feed the horses carrots and apples. It was an event for us. I knew all the drivers. They all knew me and my kids. This is personal for me. But in 90° heat the horses should not be out, like that poor horse that collapsed on 9th Avenue this summer. There should be a law about that. Horses are good for our spirit. Do not get rid of my horses. You can get rid of my mayor, but not my horses!”
Time on the Upper West Side: 5 months
“Sure, New York has a lot of traditions, but whenever I see a horse here it feels like New York City is the last place a horse should be. I do see a lot of tourists enjoying the ride through the park, and there seems to be a lot of benefit from that. But it’s nothing for the locals. And I see a lot of these pedicabs rolling through the park and that seems just as enjoyable as a horse-drawn carriage. I’m sure I’m missing some pieces, and I’m sure there are some interesting arguments to be made about why to keep this tradition alive and what it means to the city that I’m just not aware of. But it’s come to a point where there are some real negative consequences that have come to light. And if the public can see these negative consequences and understand what happens to these horses, it’s not something that the city would really miss if they were to do away with them.”