July 20, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
Horse-drawn carriages are unsafe, inhumane and condemn horses to a lifetime of hardship.
That’s the view of Councilmember Robert Holden who has introduced a bill that aims to ban horse-drawn carriages from operating in the city.
The legislation, if passed, would end the practice beginning June 1, 2024 and replace the wagons with horseless electric carriages that would provide trips within Central Park and certain areas of Manhattan.
Under the legislation, the city would oversee a program to lease or sell the electric carriages to current horse-drawn cab drivers who would get preference for licenses to operate the new vehicles. The new electric carriage drivers would also be paid prevailing or union wages set by the city comptroller.
Horse-drawn carriages, although controversial due to animal welfare concerns, have been a fixture of Central Park since the 1850s and continue to be a massive tourist attraction, proponents say.
However, Holden says that it’s time for the city to move on and scrap the practice for good.
“New York has always been a city of innovation and there is no reason to continue to use these horses this way,” Holden, a Democrat, said in a statement to the Queens Post.
“We can end their needless suffering and improve carriage drivers’ livelihood at the same time.”
Holden said the electric carriages could generate extra income for the drivers since they can be operated all year round, unlike the horse-drawn carriages which are forbidden during heat waves or inclement weather. The vehicles would have a speed limit of 25 miles per hour, with the speed capped at 3 miles an hour while operating inside Central Park.
Two Queens councilmembers, Tiffany Cabán, a progressive, and Joann Ariola, a Republican, are among nine lawmakers who are co-sponsoring the bill.
However, it is unclear whether the legislation would pass a majority vote inside the 51-member city council chamber.
Furthermore, Mayor Eric Adams does not support the ban and the chamber would require a two-thirds majority to override a potential mayoral veto. Adams, however, has said he is prepared to discuss the legislation.
In last year’s mayoral election, Adams was backed by the Transport Workers Union (TWU) that also represents the horse-drawn carriage riders — who vehemently oppose such a ban.
Carriage drivers and the TWU argue that the horses are well looked after and work under favorable conditions.
Tony Utano, president of Transport Workers Union Local 100, told the New York Post last week that the horses receive physical exams by horse veterinarians up to four times a year and new shoes every 4 to 6 weeks. They also get regular dental care, vaccinations, hoof trimming, he said.
“They have comfortable and clean stalls, spend their days in the 843-acre park – and get at least five weeks’ vacation on farms every year,” Utano said.
Meanwhile, animal rights campaigners such as the anti-horse carriage group — New Yorkers for a Clean, Livable and Safe Streets (NYCLASS) — argue that the horses are being exploited and often get spooked by oncoming traffic – leading to crashes and injuries.
NYCLASS says the horses have also been made to work in extreme heat and with visible injuries.
The group held a rally with Holden outside city hall last week in support of the bill.
📢Massive City Hall rally today introducing a NEW bill to replace cruel horse carriages with innovative horseless versions with lead sponsor @BobHoldenNYC, whistleblower vet Dr Jim Keen, @kathynajimy, @KeithPowersNYC, @galeabrewer + & @peta
🚨Let’s get this done @nyccouncil pic.twitter.com/tNeWtlxSil
— NYCLASS (@nyclass) July 14, 2022