CARRIAGE HORSE STABLES IN CENTRAL PARK
ARE A BAD IDEA and A DIVERSION
As MSNBC’s Morning Joe was airing a piece about the controversial NYC carriage horse issue (9/1/22,) showing footage from horrendous accidents over the years that continue to plague NYC, the Transit Workers Union local 100 (TWU)
In 2015, trying to appease everyone but ending up with no one, former Mayor de Blasio’s administration introduced a bill that would put the horse stables in Central Park at a cost to the City of $25 Million. The bill was supported by the Teamsters, who then represented the horse owners – but opposed by the Central Park Conservancy. The bill ultimately failed. Good government groups were poised to sue the city, which would have kept this issue in the courts for years. Horse stables in Central Park are simply not a viable idea.
Do the union and carriage owners really expect to pull the proverbial wool over our eyes by thinking they will cram 180 horses into the existing 86th street stables? Or do they expect to expand the structure, taking over more of the people’s park?
Park land belongs to the people – not a private industry such as the NYC carriage horse business. This reapportioning of very desirable land in Central Park - would have to go through the legal process of alienation working its way through the state legislature and ultimately the City Council. It most likely would not pass.
The TWU proposal claims the new stables will be “state of the art”. Translated, it means that those 180 horses would require access to pasture – at one acre per horse for a first-class facility. This would not include the space required for the actual stalls and support functions within the structure itself. NYC carriage horse stalls are legally allowed to be 60 sq. ft. – half the size of what is recommended by equine experts. Factoring all of that in, this “state of the art” stable could take up one quarter of Central Park – all for a private for-profit business. It is fantastical thinking and a diversion. New Yorkers will not stand for it.
Although the TWU suggests what resembles a petting zoo for people, grazing land would have to be kept pristine, blocked off from the public, guarded 24-7, and not doused with garbage, chemical fertilizer or weed killers. Overgrazing on too small a plot can easily turn the paddock into a mudhole.
As an alternative, without adequate and thoughtful grazing space, the horses would be kept in their “legal” 60 sq. ft. stalls - looking out with sadness at grass that is inaccessible to them
Relegating carriage horses to Central Park is no panacea just because it is off the busy Manhattan streets. The park can get very crowded with people, jostling and pushing against the horse carriages – with the horses maneuvering through bicyclists, skate boarders, scooters, pedicabs – anything on wheels. It is a horse’s nature to be nervous – they are prey animals who can spook and bolt at the slightest provocation. Accidents also happen in Central Park as evidenced by this list – one in 2020 resulted in the horse, Aisha, dying.
Carriage drivers are not city employees. NYC should not be expected to pick up the bill for a full time veterinarian as proposed, or for the renovation of the horse stables, which would be paid by tax payers.
The proposal by the Committee for Compassionate and Responsible Tourism to replace horse carriages with electric horseless carriages was intended to bring the union and drivers into the equation with mutual respect as was done successfully in Guadalajara – something we witnessed on our factfinding trip there in 2019. We offered a job alternative to the drivers, instead of pushing for a total ban. Consider that in the last two years, both Chicago and Montreal shut down their carriage businesses with no alternative offered to the drivers. Prague, in the Czech Republic, is on schedule to do the same in 2023.
But the union reps are tone deaf and said they were not interested. They said the carriage drivers are “horse people.” Like stubborn children they were not willing to give an inch. They disregarded the argument that the drivers will earn more money as has been proven in Guadalajara since they would no longer be restricted by weather regulations. According to NYC Department of Health texts for weather suspension, drivers have lost more than 360 hours so far this year. And they would not be encumbered by the expenses of keeping horses such as food, vet bills, and boarding.
If the TWU were really interested in protecting “blue collar jobs’, they would transition to electric carriages since the drivers would earn more and they could expand union membership.
It’s time to retire these poor, exploited, horses and stop putting them, caring New Yorkers, and tourists through the wringer every few months with a horrible new accident that hurts our psyche and the City’s image. There is no way to provide them with a humane environment in NYC in which to both work and live.
Perhaps the union should stick to what they know best – and it is not horse management.
Elizabeth Forel – co-founder Committee for Compassionate & Responsible Tourism and President Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages
HORSE-DRAWN CARRIAGE ACCIDENTS - THE HARSH TRUTH
Updated November 2022
This list of accidents in NYC has been updated as of August 2022, reflecting 115 REPORTED accidents that have occurred since 1982. We believe many more have occurred since drivers are not required to make a report.
HORSE ARE PRODUCTS: In this city, horses are considered PRODUCT to be discarded when they are no longer useful. We have been waiting for years for the City Council and the Mayor - whomever he or she may be - to do the right thing.
WORST OFFENDER: The NY Daily News has been the worst offender in spreading lies about this issue, but other media outlets went along. On August 16, 2012, in an article entitled "Carriage Horse Breaks Free Near Central Park," NBC quoted carriage driver, Christina Hansen, "we've really had only a handful of accidents." This is not true as evidenced by the list below, which is a lot more than a "handful." The trade also likes to claim that "only 3 horses have died in traffic accidents in 30 years." This is deceitful and a lie of omission because it does not include all the many horses who have died from dropping dead on the street like Charlie; spooking and running into a tree like Smoothie; or Clancy who died in the stable from unknown causes. We can account for 27 carriage horse deaths in 33 years - and those are just the ones we know.
ACCIDENTS: Of the 115 documented incidents/accidents, 40 have occurred in the last ten years. These are the ones that have been documented. It is very difficult to document horse-drawn carriage accidents, because there is no requirement to report them, and there have been many hit-and-runs by carriages drivers. Increased awareness of animal welfare and the ubiquity of recording devices have enabled us to know of more accidents now, but it is reasonable to believe that many were never reported.
The Daily News reported in 2006 (before their anti-deBlasio campaign) that according to "City records," carriage drivers' inexperience with horses, incompetence, and negligence were the leading causes of carriage accidents. Horses are prey animals and have evolved to spook. It is their nature, however trained. An experienced, competent, and conscientious horse handler has a much better chance of forestalling a spook, bringing the horse out of a spook, or minimizing its consequences. Nevertheless, horses are massive, strong, but nervous animals who can spook at the slightest provocation, becoming unwitting weapons and can injure or kill themselves or passersby. New York City has one of the highest horse-drawn carriage accident rates in the country.
LIST OF ALL KNOWN DOCUMENTED HORSE-DRAWN CARRIAGE ACCIDENTS/INCIDENTS IN NEW YORK CITY SINCE 1982
Followed by a Summary of the 23 Work-Related Horse Deaths.
115) November 18, 2022 - a horse carriage was hit by an SUV on 58th St. near Ninth Ave. Paddy, the carriage horse, spooked, tore lose from the carriage and bolted - running down 58th St. to Columbus Circle where he was stopped. (Central Park & Environs)
114) August 11, 2022 - an emaciated sick 14 year old horse named Ryder collapsed on the street at 45th St. and Ninth on his way back to the stable. He was down for about one hour and had to be hosed down by the NYPD mounted unit. (Stables & Elsewhere)
113) July 20, 2022 - BILLY DIES During a heatwave, a horse named Billy died in his stall presumably from colic, a mostly treatable condition
(Stables & Elsewhere)
112) June 15, 2022 - a carriage horse named Freddy, spooked while in Central Park and bolted onto Fifth Ave. and 60th St still attached to his carriage., narrowly missing cars. Crashing into parked cars, he had a bloody gash on his leg. (Central Park & Environs)
110) September 23, 2021 - a horse named Chief, spooked, bolted and crashed into a car and fell at the intersection of W. 55th St. and Eighth Ave. He suffered cuts to his mid-section, head and front leg. (Stables & Elsewhere)
109) July 5, 2021: A man punched and kicked three horses who were waiting to take on passengers in Central Park. (Central Park & Environs)
108) February 29, 2020: A horse was euthanized after collapsing in Central Park. (Central Park & Environs)
107) February 2020 According to news reports, a pedestrian witnessed a carriage horse running loose for several blocks before crashing into a poll and collapsing. The horse had apparently stepped on an electrical plate and the driver lost control. (Stables & Elsewhere)
106) August 4, 2019 A horse forced to pull a heavy carriage in New York City collapsed near Central Park. Horrified onlookers observed the animal struggling on the ground, still attached to the damaged carriage. Earlier that day, a horse escaped from a stable in the city and bolted into traffic before being recaptured. (Central Park & Environs)
105) December 11, 2018 - According to four tourists, the driver of the carriage that they were in was asleep for most of their 45-minute ride and wasn’t holding the reins while he was supposed to be guiding the horse through Central Park and through traffic outside the park. (Central Park & Environs)
104) October 2, 2018 A horse fell while pulling a carriage near Central Park. (Central Park & Environs)
The Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages
P.O. Box 20247 | Park West Station | New York, NY 10025 | Coalition@banhdc.org