Councilman Holden introduces bill banning horse-drawn carriages from driving in town

Councilman Robert Holden introduced a bill that would ban horse-drawn carriages from driving in the city (Picture: Photo Phanatic through Unsplash)

July 20, 2022 By Michael Dorgan

Carriages are dangerous, inhumane and condemn horses to a lifetime of deprivation.

That’s the view of council member Robert Holden who introduced a bill to ban horse-drawn carriages from circulating in the city.

The legislationif passed, would end the practice starting June 1, 2024, and replace wagons with horseless electric cars that would provide rides in Central Park and parts of Manhattan.

Under the legislation, the city would oversee a program for renting or selling the electric cars to current horse-drawn taxi drivers who would get preference for driving licenses for the new vehicles. New electric car drivers would also be paid according to prevailing or union wages set by the city comptroller.

Horse-drawn carriages, though controversial due to animal welfare concerns, have been a fixture in Central Park since the 1850s and continue to be a massive tourist attraction, according to supporters.

However, Holden says it’s time for the city to move on and ditch the practice for good.

“New York has always been a city of innovation and there is no reason to continue to use these horses in this way,” Holden, a Democrat, said in a statement to the Queens Post.

“We can put an end to their needless suffering and at the same time improve the livelihood of horse-drawn carriage drivers.”

Holden said electric cars could generate additional revenue for drivers since they can operate year-round, unlike horse-drawn cars which are banned during heat waves or inclement weather. The vehicles would have a speed limit of 25 miles per hour, with speed capped at 3 miles per hour when operating inside Central Park.

Two Queens council members, Tiffany Cabán, a progressive, and Joann Ariola, a Republican, are among nine lawmakers co-sponsoring the bill.

However, it is unclear whether the legislation would pass a majority vote inside the 51-member city council chamber.

Additionally, Mayor Eric Adams does not support the ban, and the chamber would require a two-thirds majority to override a potential veto by the mayor. Adams, however, said he was ready to discuss the legislation.

In last year’s mayoral elections, Adams was backed by the Transport Workers Union (TWU), which also represents horse-drawn carriage riders, who vehemently oppose such a ban.

Carriage drivers and the TWU say the horses are well cared for and working in favorable conditions.

Tony Utano, President of transport workers union Local 100, told the New York Post last week that horses receive physical exams by equine veterinarians up to four times a year and new shoeing every 4-6 weeks. They also get regular dental care, vaccinations, hoof trimming, he said.

“They have comfortable, clean stalls, spend their days in the 843-acre park — and enjoy at least five weeks of farm vacations every year,” Utano said.

Meanwhile, animal rights activists such as the anti-carriage group – New Yorkers for a Clean, Livable and Safe Streets (NYCLASS) – say the horses are exploited and are often frightened by oncoming traffic, which leads to accidents and injuries.

NYCLASS says the horses were also required to work in extreme heat and with visible injuries.

The group held a rally with Holden outside City Hall last week to support the bill.

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