Mayor Bill de Blasio noted his 100th day in office last weekwith a big speech and a proud recitation of campaign promises kept: universal prekindergarten, an end to unconstitutional policing, paid sick leave, among other things. There is one prominent pledge he would do better to break.
Mr. de Blasio ran on a vow to abolish, in his first days in office, the horse-drawn carriage rides that have been a fixture for generations in and around Central Park. To fulfill that promise to animal-rights activists, his administration is considering sending more than 200 horses to pasture and finding something else for their 300 drivers to do, like possibly shuttling tourists around in antique-style electric cars.
Don’t do it, Mr. Mayor. Here’s an instance where delay and inaction are the preferable form of leadership. Let the carriages and the horses alone. Let this small business survive. Side with the drivers and do not add fleets of new cars, electric or not, into the streets and parks.
The carriage opponents argue — often vehemently, though with very little evidence — that pulling people around is a terrible fate for a horse and that city living and working the streets are abusive by nature. The owners counter that this slow mode of transportation has a good safety record, considering how few horses have ever been injured or killed in accidents given the tens of thousands of trips taken over the years. They say they treat their horses with love and comply with strict city regulations like five weeks of vacation a year for the horses and other health and safety standards.
While there is no lack of animal-welfare problems in the city — abused pets, feral cats, rats, Asian long-horned beetles, geese at the airports — New York’s well-treated, well-regulated carriage horses are not among them. Mr. de Blasio should, by all means, protect the health and well-being of horses, but he has far bigger and better things to do than eliminate the carriage trade.
Besides, there is much room for compromise here, short of abolition. Let the horses work, but maybe just in Central Park, not on the avenues or in Times Square. Find ways for more children and the disabled to get close to them, and for the horses to eat and socialize with one another when they aren’t pulling carriages. To get the horses safely to and from their stables on the West Side of Manhattan, block off a lane for them twice a day.
Carriage horses have a place in New York, a working, workaday city. The de Blasio administration should make every effort to ensure that they are safe and protected. They do not need to be banished.