THE reinvigorated discussion about the famed horse-carriage rides in Central Park took shape in recent weeks following incidents, some captured on video, of horses collapsing and running into oncoming traffic.
Among those who want to phase out the horse-drawn rides is Council Member Robert Holden, who introduced a bill that would effectively end the horse-carriage industry in Central Park. If the bill becomes law, horse carriages would be phased out and replaced by electric-powered carriages by June 2024, with the drivers of the horse-drawn buggies given priority for licenses for horseless carriages they would either sell or lease. The city would cap the number of those licenses it would issue.
But TWU Local 100, which represents the Central Park carriage drivers, is concerned that the possible change could lead to a dramatic decline in riders and in turn, drivers’ wages. “Nobody wants to ride an electric golf cart,” said Christina Hansen, a communications liaison for the local “Essentially you’d be putting the carriage drivers out of work or giving them a business that they could no longer support themselves or their families.”
Holden, though, argues that the carriage drivers would actually be better off with a shift away from horse carriages. He points to examples from around the world, such as Guadalajara, Mexico, where a swap to electric carriages has proven beneficial to both riders and drivers.
‘Nothing makes any sense’
If Holden’s bill is passed into law, the drivers would be required to be paid union wages set by the city comptroller. “There’s a much better chance of carriage drivers owning the (electric carriage) than there ever be of them owning a $200,000 horse,” said Holden, who represents portions of Queens on the Council. “They’d end up better than they are now.”
But Hansen contends that tourists come to Central Park to ride in a horse carriage, not an electric one, and points to other options, such as pedicabs and motorized scooters. “They’re going to force us to get rid of our horses and they’re going to tell us you have to drive these city-owned vehicles and there is nothing in there that makes any sense,” she said. “It’s fundamentally an anti-horse bill.”
A recent poll indicated that 71 percent of city voters were in favor of a ban on horse carriages, which date to the 1860s.
Featured Image: Carriage Horse along 59th Street, South Central Park, NYC. Photographer: Danielle Parhizkaran.
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