New York mayor close to deal to keep Central Park carriages

Tourists travel by carriage along New York's streets. Picture: Getty Images
Tourists travel by carriage along New York's streets. Picture: Getty Images
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City officials are close to a deal that would save Central Park’s horse-drawn carriages from a threatened ban.

When mayor Bill de Blasio was elected two years ago, he pledged to end the popular carriage rides through the park right away, calling it inhumane to keep horses in loud, car-clogged Manhattan. But now his administration is negotiating with a carriage drivers’ union a compromise deal that would keep the horses trotting.

As many as two-thirds of the approximately 200 horses working in the park would be permanently retired. The remaining ones would get a new home, a stable built within Central Park, a City Hall official said yesterday.

The Central Park stalls, replacing four privately owned stables on Manhattan’s West Side, would have space for around 75 horses, although the official said that number could change as the plan firms up.

The move to the park would address one complaint from animal welfare activists: that the horses were in danger every time they made their daily walks from their staging area at the south end of the park to the urban stables where they are kept at night.

One location being discussed for the horses’ new home flanks Central Park’s 86th Street Transverse.

But Elizabeth Forel, of the Coalition to Ban Horse Drawn Carriages, said she remained “absolutely” opposed to any plan that does not ban carriage horses altogether. She also questioned whether it is proper to house horses belonging to private businesses in the very public Central Park.

“What right does Mayor Bill de Blasio have to take public land and build a stable for private use?” asked Ms Forel.

Another animal welfare group sees a move to Central Park as a compromise that would clear streets of carriages. “We’re open to a compromise, but we need to see more details,” said John Collins, spokesman for NYCLASS, an animal advocacy organisation.

He added the group wants more information on where and how many hours a day the horses will be working, what veterinary care they will get and what happens to them after they age and are no longer useful.

Drivers had mixed reactions.

“Being forced to move to Central Park would be a great idea – if it would be all the horses,” said driver Ian McKeever, who owns licenses for three carriages. Otherwise, “that’s a lot of work for about 70 horses.”