The New York City Council is gearing up to launch a bill that would make major changes for horse-drawn carriages and pedicabs in Central Park. The proposal involves moving horse stables to a location within the park permanently, as well as other measures that are aimed directly at improving conditions for the hard-working horses. Inside sources recently told The Daily News that the bill is currently being drafted and that a hearing could be held as early as this Friday. It’s too soon to speculate about the bill’s chances of being approved or when changes might go into effect, but those close to the negotiations make it sound like a gallop in the right direction.
In addition to relocating horse stables to inside Central Park, which would keep carriage horses off of city streets and away from car traffic, the bill would also ban pedicabs below 85th St. within the park. Sources familiar with the discussions told The Daily News that the bill will also enable carriage drivers to add a night surcharge of $5 on rides after 6 p.m and on some holidays. The idea is to make drastic improvements to the safety and well-being of the horses, as well as improve business for the carriage drivers. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office has reportedly held a number of meetings with the Teamsters, the union that represents the drivers.
Animal rights groups have been pushing for improvements for the horses for quite some time, and The Daily News even led a “Save Our Horses” campaign that collected thousands of signatures online. Although this bill would fall short of de Blasio’s promise to ban horse carriages altogether on “Day One” of his administration, many are hopeful that the proposed changes will lead to happier, healthier horses.
Horse-drawn carriage rides through Central Park are one of the most iconic experiences in the city, but many New Yorkers now oppose the practice in light of the unsafe conditions faced by many of the animals. If this bill moves forward, it could mark a smart compromise between those who wish to preserve the historical and picturesque pastime and those who wish to defend the working horses from undue danger.