Their Turn - The Social Justice Movement of Our Time Their Turn - The Social Justice Movement of Our Time

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Distressing Horse-Drawn Carriage Compromise

January 18, 2016 by Leave a Comment

The News

Update (Feb 3): While the animal rights community supports a ban on horse-drawn carriages, activists are divided on how to achieve it, with some supporting and others opposing a compromise bill which is scheduled for a vote on Friday, February 5th. If passed, the law would, among other things, reduce the number horses by almost half and move their staging area into the Park. The changes would provide some relief for the remaining horses and weaken the politically connected and inexplicably powerful industry. The carriage operators vehemently oppose the compromise and insist on having free reign throughout the streets of midtown. The media, big labor and park advocates (who want to minimize the presence of horses in the park) are backing the carriage operators in opposition to the bill. If the Mayor accepts defeat, walks away from the issue altogether and says, “time to move on,” then where does that leave the 200+ horses and the grass roots movement?  


In an effort to liberate himself from an issue that has plagued him since taking office, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, who promised to ban horse-drawn carriages from Manhattan in early 2014, announced that his administration struck a compromise with the Teamsters, the union that represents the horse-drawn carriage trade in its negotiations with the city. The deal, which must be approved by the City Council, would move the horses into a stable in Central Park and cut their number in half – to 95 – by 2018. The public has not seen a draft bill, so many questions regarding the quality of life of the horses remain unanswered.

An small building on 86th Street in Central Park that was used as a stable in the past is being considered as a location for the new stable.

An small building on 85th Street in Central Park that was used as a stable in the past is being considered as a location for the new stable.

The compromise would improve the lives of the remaining horses, as they will no longer be forced to compete with aggressive drivers in the congested streets of midtown for most of the day. However, many of the conditions that make the operation of horse-drawn carriages inhumane and unsafe in NYC will not be addressed by moving the horses into the park. Following are several examples:

  1. In his statement about the compromise, the Mayor made no mention of setting aside land for a pasture on which the horses can graze, run, roll and interact physically, as herd animals do. They could be surrounded by open spaces but deprived of the opportunity to use them.
  2. Moving the horses into the Central Park won’t stop them from spooking and potentially harming themselves and others when they bolt. Over the years, many horses have spooked in the park, and people have been seriously injured.
  3. Unless otherwise stated in the bill, the horses will continue to share the road with motor vehicles in Central Park, where cars are permitted on the streets at certain times of the day.
  4. The number of horses in the park at any given time will be limited to 75 (the other 20 will be on rotation outside of the City), but the number of carriages will remain the same — 68. If the medallion owners intend to use their carriages two shifts per day, then they would need to have at least 136 horses in the park. In the continued absence of humane law enforcement, will the carriage drivers simply double-shift their horses, as they have been caught doing in the past?
  5. Through the use of weapons and fear, the horses will continue to be “broken” when they are being trained to work in NYC.
A taxi crashes into a horse-drawn carriage in Central Park

A taxi crashes into a horse-drawn carriage in Central Park

Members of the public will oppose the bill for reasons unrelated to the humane issues, including the following:

  1. In the draft bill, the pedicab drivers would be prohibited from working in the park south of 85th street, thereby giving the carriage drivers exclusive access to tourist customers. If the main reason to keep the carriage trade afloat is to preserve jobs, then how does putting the pedicab drivers out of work accomplish that goal?
  2. According to Section 383 of the NYC Charter, “the rights of the City to its park” are “inalienable.” Building a stable for a commercial enterprise on public land could therefore be challenged in court by park advocates. That said, the administration has probably sorted out the legality of leasing a stable to the carriage trade.
  3. The City will be using public funds to pay for the construction of a stable for a private, all cash business.
  4. The horses will be staged just inside of the park, which will add to congestion in areas that are already crowded with pedestrians, joggers and bicyclists.

For the animal rights activists who have been working for many years to ban horse-drawn carriages from Manhattan, one of the most distressing aspects of this compromise is that the erection of a stable in the park could keep the industry afloat indefinitely. However, many doubt that a stable will be built.

In 2014, activists staged a rally at Gracie Mansion to "remind" Mayor de Blasio to fulfill his promise

In 2014, activists staged a rally at Gracie Mansion to “remind” Mayor de Blasio to fulfill his promise

The media has reported that the Mayor resorted to a compromise because he didn’t have support in the City Council for a bill to ban horse-drawn carriages. What the media has failed to report is that he never made a serious attempt to garner support from lawmakers. In fact, the Mayor remained virtually silent on the issue for two years while the opposition ran an aggressive (and dishonest) campaign to preserve the industry. The Mayor didn’t even speak out when highly publicized carriage accidents occurred, in spite of the fact that advocates plead with him to do so.

A prominent component of Bill de Blasio's campaign platform was banning horse-drawn carriages

A prominent component of Bill de Blasio’s campaign platform was banning horse-drawn carriages

While mistakes were made over the years by grass roots activists and advocacy groups fighting to end NYC’s anachronistic horse-drawn carriage trade, the blame for this compromise lies with the Mayor, as no amount of advocacy could have led to a ban without his leadership, which he failed to provide in spite of his promises.

In the midst of much ongoing uncertainty, one thing is certain — NYC activists will continue to be a voice for the horses until their shafts are lifted for good. In the meantime, with many stakeholders affected by this bill, including animal rights activists, the carriage trade, the pedicab industry and Central Park conservationists, the horse-drawn carriage controversy will likely continue to take center stage for the indefinite future.

Horses are confined between the shafts of the carriage for over nine hours/day

Horses are confined between the shafts of the carriage for over nine hours/day

Your Turn

If you live in NYC, please contact your Council Member to express your point of view on this bill.

Comments via Facebook Comments

  1. Linda Krueger says:

    It’s my understanding that PETA, the Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA, LCA and the Animal Legal Defense Fund are all backing the position of NY Class.


  2. Natasha Brenner says:

    De Blasio is a yellow-livered spineless lying hypocrite! Vote him OUT!

  3. NTB says:

    Restricting the carriage horses to Central Park will not make the horses or the public safer. Of all the documented horse-drawn carriage accidents, spooking incidents, horse collapses, horse deaths, and human injuries due to horse-drawn carriages, the MAJORITY have occurred in Central Park and its immediate environs. There are 98 documented accidents and incidents (including 22 work-related carriage horse deaths and 70 human injuries, many critical), since 1982. There are no doubt more than this, because they are hard to document; but these are documented. Of these 51 took place in Central Park and its immediate environs. 47 took place in the stables, between the Park and the stables, and elsewhere. Accidents in and near the Park will continue because all horses spook as an evolutionary survival adaptation to keep them safe as prey animals. But it does not keep them safe in an urban setting, whether in the street or in the Park.

    The 22 work-related carriage horse deaths do not include horses who went to slaughter, horses who may have been destroyed due to lameness or other disability from working, or horses who died early from the attrition of carriage work.

  4. Zizi says:

    “Compromise”, the new euphemism for Betrayed!

    Horses screwed!
    Activists screwed!
    Pedicab drivers screwed! (see Facebook event tomorrow: Save NYC Pedicab Jobs)
    Park lovers and preservationists screwed!
    Taxpayers screwed!
    The public hoodwinked and screwed!

    win/win for whom?

  5. Natasha Brenner says:

    De Blasio is a liar and a spineless man who breaks promises for his own betterment.
    And P.S., where is it written that horses have to work?

  6. Dan says:

    This really is disgusting. Today on the news they were saying that if this happens the mayor will have made good on his promise. His promise was to end this industry in NYC and replace the horses with automobiles or some other form of transportation other than animals. I really hope groups like Their Turn and The Coalition to Ban Horse Drawn Carriages continues to put pressure on the Mayor to do what he promised. I would love for the media to point out why this compromise really does nothing at all. It’s so disappointing.

  7. Jami Green says:

    Does this mean we shouldn’t ride horses either? I applaud the efforts to get them off the streets, that is where the danger lies. They should be regulated and not over-worked, but there is no reason to “ban” anything. Horses have been ridden, trained and used throughout our entire history. I see no difference between pulling a cart and riding. They should not be on the streets, that I get. The rest shows clear ignorance of horses, horse husbandry, training and safe use. They are “encumbered by much equipment”? Huh? Those are called shafts and they run alongside the horses body, causing no pain. Sheesh. It’s clear we aren’t talking about horse people here. I’ve been a lifelong horse owner. I applaud the move to the park. Safer, quieter and the horses still have a home. Win-Win.

    1. Donny Moss says:

      Perhaps you haven’t seen the deep harness rubs that have been documented….
      Even if you support the idea of horses pulling carriages, moving them into the park will not change the fact that they have no turnout; that they will still work on the street with motor vehicles (in the park); that they will still spook, endangering themselves and people; and that they will still have to be violently “broken” to work in the city, as their trainer described in his book.

      1. Jami Green says:

        That was one trainer. If you believe that’s the way all people “break” (a common old-school term meaning train, even the kind, humane people use it) then you really are delusional. There are good trainers and bad, just like there are good veterinarians and bad (I’ve seen plenty handle animals poorly and inhumanely). Lumping an entire group of people into one “bad guy” group is really clearly showing, not only ignorance, but inaccuracy.
        I’m an ex-humane officer, if there are “deep harness rubs”, those should be turned in. I’ve never seen them on the horses, if they exist, even on one, fine, report those and get them looked at. No reason to take all horses off the carriages. All horses spook, they are prey animals and your point is? 99% it’s all fine, it’s handled and not an issue. Putting them in rush-hour traffic, as I said, is not a good idea, in the park, it’s a different story. Just so I’m clear, do you believe all horses should not be ridden? No matter if it’s for police work, pleasure, therapeutic riding for those who are disabled? Because I’m here to tell you, there is no difference to the horse.

        1. GW says:

          “Because I’m here to tell you, there is no difference to the horse.”

          Thanks for telling us what horses think. LMFAO!

          All these horses do is pull carriages (while fitted with bits, blinders, harnesses and shit collection bags) and languish in stalls. Those who believe this is acceptable should go back to the early 19th Century where they belong. Humane and enlightened people living in the 21st Century recognize that horses are not tools, but living feeling beings who need and deserve to socialize with each other, run and stretch and roll in the grass and dirt.

          So please, spare all of us (especially the horses) your ignorance and inaccuracy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *