Compromise for NYC Carriage Horses?

City Councillor spurs carriage-ban fight

The last time animal advocates tried to ban horse-drawn carriages outside of Central Park, they were flat-out ignored by the City Council. That was six years ago. Now, Councilman Tony Avella (D-Queens) thinks the time might be ripe for a compromise.

This week Avella is introducing a bill that would restrict the horses and their carriages to Central Park.

“Carriage horses and carriage rides are an integral part of New York City nightlife,” said Avella. “Once they go outside of Central Park, you create a serious safety hazard.”

Avella said he was approached about tighter restrictions on horse-drawn carriages when he first took office in 2002. But he was moved to act after the horrific car accident in January that left a carriage driver gravely injured and a horse dead.

There’s no shortage of opinions on the issue. The ASPCA agrees the carriages should only operate in the park, while owners have said that would hurt business.

Meanwhile, some animal advocates have said horse-drawn carriages should be banned in the city, while Mayor Bloomberg has said that’s too extreme.

“What I’m trying to do is restore balance to the situation,” Avella said.

Current law allows the carriages to travel on streets contiguous to Central Park until 9 p.m. Those restrictions loosen up during some evening hours, on weekends and during some holidays.

Avella said he was surprised to learn a previous law that restricted carriage horses to Central Park was allowed to expire in 1993.

In 2000, the ASPCA and actress Mary Tyler Moore embarked on an aggressive campaign to bring those restrictions back, but were unable to find even one Council member to introduce a bill.

Edita Birnkrant of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages said it’s dangerous to have horses share streets with cars, no matter what time it is.

“It’s such a ludicrous sight to see these carriage horses in midtown traffic, it doesn’t belong in this century anymore,” she said. “Tourism will be just fine if we get rid of the carriages.”

Birnkrant also pointed out that the horses will still have to travel twice a day through streets to get to their stables on the far West Side.

“That’s where the majority of the accidents happen,” she said.

Thin Gray Bar

BY LISA L. COLANGELO | Daily News City Hall Bureau | Feb. 14, 2006 | Story URL

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