City pushing to move horse-drawn carriages into Central Park
by Austin Havens-Bowen
Dec 26, 2018 | 6162 views | 0 0 comments | 293 293 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Groups defending Central Park's iconic horse-drawn carriages continue to fight back as the Department of Transportation (DOT) plans to relocate the horses from their current stations at Central Park South and Grand Army Plaza to various points in Central Park.

A lawsuit was filed in October to stop the move. A Richmond Hill-based attorney representing the carriage industry said the companies operating the carriages have called on the City Council to create 50 dedicated carriage pick-up and drop-off stations where they have been located for over 200 years.

“The big misnomer here is that everyone believes that the horses and carriages should be on the street, but nothing is further from the truth,” said Angelo DiGangi, who represents a group that includes The Golden Soldiers Horse and Carriage company. “We want the horses to be safe. We need a place where they can be picked up and then go straight into the park.”

DiGangi does not believe the city gave proper notification prior to an October 23rd public hearing on the matter. Because of this, the group was granted a temporary restraining order by a judge preventing the city from taking action.

“This is about democracy,” DiGangi said. “The mayor is trying to usurp the City Council and the courts.”

If and when the city publishes the new regulations regarding the location of the horse-drawn carriages, the groups plan to challenge it in court.

The city's proposal would allocate space for 16 carriages in Central Park, whereas there are currently approximately 60 carriages on the streets at any given time.

“While moving the passenger boarding area for horse-drawn cabs will not wholly eliminate the possibility for conflicts between horses and other modes of transportation, taking the reasonable step will reduce the amount of time that horses spend alongside vehicular traffic and thereby limit horses’ interaction and potential conflict with vehicular traffic,” said Health Commissioner Mary T. Bassett.

In response, the carriage industry is proposing a total of 50 drop-off/pick-up points, 25 in the park and 25 around the perimeter.

In a press release from late August, DOT proposed five locations for pick-up and drop-offs including in the center lane at Grand Army Plaza, the West 67th roundabout and the East 72nd St., West 72nd St. and Seventh Avenue entrances.

However, groups fear that the move will eliminate the horse's presence to tourists and inevitably put them out of business.

“We just want the horses to remain in the public's view,” said DiGangi.

Proponents of the carriage industry say the proposal is just part of Mayor Bill de Blasio's larger goal to eliminate the carriage industry.

During his 2012 bid for mayor, de Blasio said the ban was due to the horse's inhumane living conditions. After being elected mayor, a bill was introduced to phase out the carriage industry but was never voted on.

Then again in 2016, de Blasio tried to reduce the amount of carriages in Central Park, but the City Council canceled the vote.

In previously published reports, de Blasio has been criticized for his ties with NYClass, the group that has worked to get the carriages banned.

De Blasio received $200,000 from NYClass to finance a campaign ad, while real-estate developer Steve Nislick is rumored to be behind the anti-carriage campaign for development purposes.

Those defending the horses say the push is for the horse-drawn carriages to go out of business, which would leave the horse's stables in Manhattan's West Side, located between West 37th and West 52nd streets off of 11th Avenue, vacant for prime redevelopment.

Despite claims of the horse's living conditions, Golden Soldiers Horse and Carriage insists they adhere to strict policies put forth by the ASPCA to protect the well-being of the horses.

According to the company, horses are not allowed to work in temperatures below 18 degrees or above 85 degrees. During the winter months, horses wear jackets for warmth and work no longer than nine hours a day with 15-minute rests throughout.

The company also does not allow any of the horses to work when sick.

“If the mayor really cared about the horses, he would build three stables in Central Park,” said DiGangi.
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