Hoof finally comes to shove: Carriage-horse lines moving to park

A carriage horse in one of the horses’ traditional hack lines on Central Park South. Under the mayor’s plan, the hack lines will move inside the park’s entrances, reportedly as soon as next week. Photo by Tequila Minsky

BY ALEJANDRA O’CONNELL-DOMENECH | The Central Park carriage horses will no longer pick up passengers outside of the park.

On Wed., Feb. 13, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron ruled in favor of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s push to ban horse-drawn carriages from waiting for passengers outside of the park.

Edita Birnkrant, executive director of the animal-rights group New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets, or NYCLASS, hailed the decision.

“This is obviously a victory for the horses and for the whole city,” she said.

While running for mayor in 2013, de Blasio received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from NYCLASS and made a promise to ban carriage horses on “Day One,” if elected.

A carriage horse trudges through traffic along Central Park South. Photo by Tequila Minsky

The new rules, which were proposed last August, grant the city’s Department of Transportation authority over horse-carriage pickup locations, also known as “hack lines.” The city’s Department of Health and the Department of Consumer Affairs are the agencies that actually regulate horse-drawn carriages.

D.O.T. is now constructing three pickup locations inside the park’s entrances at Seventh and Sixth Aves. and Grand Army Plaza near Fifth Ave.

But while animal-rights activists are delighted by Engoron’s ruling, horse-carriage drivers believe the new rules will makes things worse for the 200 horses in the city’s carriage industry.

According to the carriage drivers that fought against the mayor’s idea in court, relocating the horses would be detrimental to the animals’ well-being.

A horse expert, Dr. Joseph Bertone, professor of equine medicine at Western University of Health Science, weighed in with an affidavit filed Feb. 4.

“They will be stressed by their new surroundings, which will be magnified because every other nearby horse will also be stressed,” Bertone maintained.

The drivers also claim that the new hack lines are not long enough to comfortably fit 68 standing carriages — which, they say, is imperative when business is slow — and are not wide enough for two carriages to pass one another safely. The proposed hack line at Seventh Ave. also would force the horses to stand for long periods of time at a downward incline, they added.

Christina Hansen, the communications liaison for Historic Horse-Drawn Carriages of Central Park and one of the horse-carriage drivers fighting the new hack lines, described how this would be a recipe for trouble.

“The physiology that horses use to be able to sleep standing up and to rest doesn’t work if they are pointed downhill,” Hansen said.

“So, try telling that to D.O.T. when they don’t meet with you,” she added.

Hansen claims that she and other carriages drivers have already tried to meet with D.O.T. three times to explain why the new hack lines would be dangerous, but to no avail.

An exhibit from the case Stephen Malone et al v City of New York purports to show how the carriage horses would queue between existing curbs in the park, which would make it hard for the horses to get out of the line, if for example, a horse needs to “clock out” at the end of its nine-hour day. But animal-rights advocates say these areas are, in fact, being renovated, so Malone’s argument is misleading and moot.

And not just the horses would be hurt by the new rules, but the passengers and drivers would be, too, according to Hansen. In court documents, carriage drivers claimed the new hack-line locations would make it difficult to pick up passengers with accessibility issues.

According to the court documents, the drivers fear that, under the new setup, they would get ticketed for working their horses for more than nine hours a day since the animals would have a harder time leaving the standing line — or would actually be stuck in line — when they are supposed to be “clocking out.”

“Their agenda is not to help the horses, it’s not to help our business, it’s not even to deal with 59th St.,” said Hansen, referring to D.O.T. and NYCLASS. “It’s [being done] because they think nobody should be taking any carriage rides at all.”

According to Birnkrant of NYCLASS, however, the areas for the new hack lines are being renovated to eliminate the conditions cited above that the drivers are complaining about, so those arguments are basically moot.

She added that the new hack lines are scheduled to be completed by Feb. 25, which is also when the carriages would start operating out of those locations. D.O.T. has not responded to this paper’s questions seeking to confirm that timetable.

11 Responses to Hoof finally comes to shove: Carriage-horse lines moving to park

  1. I am very sad to hear this. My main concern is for the horses' comfort, and when I read that “The physiology that horses use to be able to sleep standing up and to rest doesn’t work if they are pointed downhill,” Hansen said, it makes me angry that no one is listening to Ms. Hansen about this and the other concerns. Those poor horses work long hours and since they have no say in the matter, concerned citizens and others should push further until those with deaf ears listen to these concerns. I also concerned that the horses will be standing for hours on concrete.

  2. Pointed downhill for hours standing in one place and having to hold back a carriage is ridiculously hard on a horse and very cruel. The new set up of hack lines is crazy and designed to make the whole concept of carriage rides disappear. Horrid.

  3. Moving the hack line to just inside Central Park was the only thing the mayor could do without taking it through the City Council. It is the way that particular regulation is written.

    Relocating the hack lines and claiming that it is a huge victory is based on untruths, suggesting that the horses will now only be working in the park where it is so much safer. The truth is that the horses now work most of their day in Central Park but will continue on the adjacent streets making their loops. This is nothing new and there will be no changes. Most accidents happen to and from their stables on the far west side of Manhattan and within the park – NOT on the hack line. The carriages will still be making illegal U-turns to access these locations – same as they do now. The horses will continue to go into the Times Square area at a certain hour in the evening- no change.

    We need critical thinkers – not people who believe anything they hear. This goes for the average person and the City Council, which often goes along to get along. Do your own research and think for yourself.

    We also need a ban of this business. Shut it down. It is a not only a humane issue for the horses – but a public safety issue. No law allowing the industry to continue will ever address a horse's nature. They are nervous prey animals, but very big and strong – weighing upward of 2,000 pounds. When they spook and bolt, they become unwitting weapons and can injure or kill themselves or innocent passersby or their own passengers. It has happened.

  4. This is an extremely unbalanced and biased assessment of the situation. The carriage industry has lost all the lawsuits brought forth against the city. All NYC agencies, the council members whose districts surround central park, the ASPCA and several other animal welfare organization all support moving the horses out of traffic and into Central Park–a car-free, shaded and tree-lined environment providing a much-needed respite from the chaotic conditions of Central Park South. Also, the picture used in the article of the proposed hack line spots (near 5th ave) is currently under construction by the DOT and not representative of the new design. As a resident of Manhattan I regularly witness dangerous traffic maneuvers, illegal blocking of fire hydrants, and horses subjected to extreme weather conditions on that busy traffic corridor. You need to fact-check your articles and provide a complete overview of the situation before you print them! I expect higher journalistic standards from The Villager.

    • Maybe you should read Ms Forels comment if you think this is somehow going to ‘benefit’ the horses. They will soon be out of a job, just as she wishes. Horses without jobs disappear, and they don’t go to the lush, green, rainbows and unicorns land that her sheep think.

  5. How many of the horses will NYNOCLASS take into their homes when they lose their very important job of driving tourists around the city to see how gorgeous it is? Be Blabbio is a train wreck.. he lost Amazon.. and wants to rid the city of any real humanity .. which includes dogs and horses.. he has made promises he is desperate to keep since the cash was funneled to his campaign by the sleazy property grabbers that also support Petaphiles a group that kills almost every animal they touch. De Blaabio has no pets ( thankfully as he would probably drop and kill them to as he did with the ground hog) Leave the horses .. get rid of the horse poop you call the mayor

  6. Movingthe horses to unfamiliar places will stress some and cause the others to be stressed as well.Standing on a downhill slope will be uncomfortable and stressful again.Try standing on the side of a hill and see how you feel in just a few minutes. Now try to hold back the weight of the carriage. The water trough is also not near the horses. These people and the DOT don’t know what horses need, and won’t meet with the drivers to find the truth.

  7. This is a bad idea in so many ways.

    Bad for the horses which need the level spots where they are currently located to rest between rides.

    Bad for business- as the carriages will be less visible to potential customers

    This is an end-run around the legislative process by desperate petaphillic pitchforks-and-torches extremists who have been trying for years to eliminate the horses so their business partners can get their grubby paws on the VALUABLE real estate where the stables are located.

    This is NOT about the WELFARE of the horses by any measure.

    It IS about a $$$ land grab and the elimination of one more human-animal bond.

  8. It is very disturbing that the mayor was able to go around City Council and find a willing agency and judge to help ruin the carriage industry. Carriage horses have been parked outside the park for generations, and now one person (I won't call him a "man') is ruining that for everyone now and in the future. This isn't Progressivism, it's corruption! Way to go, NYC! Your history of corruption goes all the way back to Boss Tweed and nothing has changed since then.

    Will the DOT reverse their ruling when it's proven that this is a bad move for the horses, or will DeB use it as an excuse to finally ban them? Either way, it makes me sick to my stomach about the damage this does to the horses and their drivers & owners.

  9. Ms. Hansen’s feigned concern for the welfare of horses is like an executioner worrying that the gurney straps are too tight. Give me a break, Christina. If you care about the horses you would not be fighting against temperature regulations, bigger stalls, and other measures that would improve the lives of these abused animals.

    • The horses are NOT abused, and why should the drivers accept further unnecessary restrictions? The NYC carriage horses are already the most regulated horses in the country. Animal activists want to regulate them out of business because you can't make any of your false abuse allegations stick. That's the usual MO for everything animal rights activists do to destroy the lives of people and their animals.
      Why don't you go rescue some horses from New Holland or Cranbury if you want to help horses?

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