Politics Threaten Horse-Carriage Rides

| 02 Mar 2015 | 05:03

    Both mayoral candidates back plans to replace or reduce the horses

    Horse-drawn carriage rides through the streets of New York - an experience nearly as old as the city itself - could be clip-clopping to a halt.

    Animal activists who have long argued that horses have no place mixing in the traffic of the nation's biggest city now have the backing of both leading candidates for mayor. And the front-runner heading into the Nov. 5 election, Democrat Bill de Blasio, supports a plan to replace the horses with old-timey electric cars to take tourists on slow-speed jaunts around Central Park.

    To the top-hatted horse drivers who dispense lap blankets and tour guide wisdom along with the rides, that plan has about as much charm as a plastic pony.

    "People come for the clip-clop of a horse's hooves," said driver Christina Hansen. "Nobody wants to pet a fender."

    Ending the city's 155-year-old horse-drawn carriage industry has emerged as an unlikely issue in the recent mayoral debates, and one of the few points of agreement in an otherwise bitter race between de Blasio and Republican Joe Lhota.

    That's a marked shift from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is leaving office after 12 years. He has consistently supported the horse-drawn carriage industry, saying it's a city-regulated tourist draw.

    For de Blasio, the city's public advocate who is leading by 40 points in the polls, the issue is animal cruelty. "We are in the biggest, densest urban area in North America. It is not a place for horses. They are not meant to be in traffic jams."

    Lhota has said that he would eliminate the carriage horses, mostly because of the "unfortunate" smell in and around Central Park. He has also expressed interest in some kind of motorized replacement.