Bill de Blasio: Central Park’s horse-drawn carriages should ride into history

Posted at 7:55 PM, Dec 30, 2013
and last updated 2013-12-30 19:55:48-05

(CNN) — Horse-drawn carriages could soon be a thing of the past in New York City’s Central Park after Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio announced plans to outlaw the popular tourist attraction once in office.

“We are going to get rid of horse carriages, period,” de Blasio said at a news conference Monday, saying that the practice is inhumane.

“No tourist comes to New York City to ride on a horse carriage,” Allie Feldman, executive director of NYCLASS, an animal rights group, told CNN.

“Horses do not belong in a congested, urban setting,” NYCLASS states on its website. “They constantly breathe exhaust while dodging dangerous traffic … confined to the shafts of their carriage and their tiny stable stalls, with no access to green pastures.”

Steven Malone, a horse-carriage driver since 1987, said that allegations of horse abuse are “ridiculous.”

“These horses lead exceedingly great lives here,” Malone told CNN.

Malone said that horses would be sent to paddocks, where they would have less interaction and exercise and would be far less happy.

Malone also disputed claims that horses are overworked, saying that all horses get at least five weeks of vacation time, and some get up to six months.

De Blasio and NYCLASS favor replacing the horse carriages with electric antique cars driven by the same carriage drivers, which would be more humane and still be appealing to tourists, de Blasio said.

“You can’t create tradition. You can’t create kids coming with smiles on their faces to pet the horses,” Malone said. “You’re not getting that with an electric car… Kids can’t pet fenders.”

De Blasio, who takes office January 1, has hired legal counsel who will deal with the legislative approach, he confirmed at the news conference.

Malone and his fellow horse-carriage drivers plan to fight back in court.

The proposed law would have to be approved by the City Council before any horses are removed from New York City streets.

“We want to provide the same service that we’ve been providing since the park opened in 1858,” Malone said.