If you’ve always dreamed of riding through Central Park in a horse-draw carriage, there’s still time. Despite Mayor de Blasio’s campaign promise to eliminate the carriage trade, three years later the deal on the table is a compromise: the number of horses will be reduced from 220 today down to 95 by 2018, carriage rides will be restricted to the park, and the horses will be housed in a new stable, to be built in Central Park by October 1, 2018. The stable will be large enough for 75 horses; 20 additional horses will be rotated in and out of service to allow them to rest.
The City Council must approve the deal, described by the mayor’s office as “an agreement in concept,” and a hearing could occur as soon as this week, officials said.
Drivers tell a slightly different story. Today 180 drivers have licenses to operate carriages in the city and they plan to continue fighting to keep as many horses and drivers employed as possible.
Personally, I’m glad to see the horses stay, even if in reduced numbers. Most of the horses I’ve seen in the park have looked well-cared for and sound; talking to the drivers I’ve heard real love for their horses in their voices. Many of the carriage drivers come from families who’ve had licenses for several generations. I’ve always wondered what the protesters thought would happen to the horses if carriages were banned. While images of green fields and retirement floated over their heads like speech bubbles, my own prediction was darker: New Holland sales and one way tickets to Canada. Hopefully, with a more gradual decline, this will allow more horses the chances to find homes (although I think animal rights activists still haven’t thought through the implications of taking the horses off the streets of NY). My guess is that ultimately, the numbers of horses/licenses will be higher than the 95 planned.
Update: According to some of the carriage drivers, the real issue driving the proposed downsizing of the industry and relocation of the stables has little to do with protecting the horses — and everything to do with real estate. The current stables are located on Manhattan’s West Side where development of the Hudson Yards has significantly raised the value of those buildings. However, the owners of the Carriage Houses say they are not interested in selling.
What do you think?