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Friday, January 3, 2014

New Mayor Vows To Outlaw A Central Park Tradition

A horse-drawn carriage is seen near Central Park January 2, 2014 in New York. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced he would like the city council to outlaw the horse-drawn carriages and have them replaced by electric antique cars. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

A horse-drawn carriage is seen near Central Park January 2, 2014 in New York. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced he would like the city council to outlaw the horse-drawn carriages and have them replaced by electric antique cars. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

The horse drawn carriages are a staple in New York’s Central Park and an almost mandatory destination for the hoards of tourists that visit the city each year.

They have been around for more than 150 years–ever since Central Park first opened in 1858.

But this year, New York’s new mayor Bill DeBlasio is vowing to do away with Central Park’s horse drawn carriages.

He says that the practice is cruel and essentially amounts to animal abuse.

DeBlasio says doing away with this NY tradition will be one of the first changes he makes in office.

Steve Malone, a horse and carriage driver and the spokesperson for the Horse and Carriage Association of New York, disagrees with the mayor. He says his industry is “legitimate and thriving,” and treats its horses well.

“A bill was passed in 2010 that increased stall size, increased vet care, gave vacations to horses, and our facilities would match up against the police department and anybody else in this city,” Malone told Here & Now’Meghna Chakrabarti. “I haven’t done anything wrong. I operate a legitimate business that’s licensed by the City of New York. I’ve never been summoned for anything in regards to faulty business practices or any inhumane treatment.”


  • Steve Malone, spokesperson for the Horse and Carriage Association of New York, and a horse and carriage driver Central Park



Well, now on to horses and horse-drawn carriages. In New York City, newly inaugurated mayor, Bill DeBlasio is vowing to keep a campaign promise and ban the carriages, which have been part of Central Park for more than 150 years. He says the industry amounts to animal abuse.

Joining us now is Steve Malone of the Horse and Carriage Association of New York. Steve, welcome.

STEVE MALONE: Thank you very much for having me.

CHAKRABARTI: So how long have you been a horse carriage driver in New York?

MALONE: I've been driving myself for 26 years so far, but I'm second generation.

CHAKRABARTI: Second generation. So this...

MALONE: But, you know, my dad started in 1964.

CHAKRABARTI: 1964. So what's this industry meant to your family?

MALONE: Oh, it's been everything. It's been the bread and butter and the eggs and the milk and everything that's put on the table, went through - was able to put myself through school. You know, my parents worked hard as Irish immigrants. And we look to preserve that right for anybody else that comes in the future to do the same thing.

CHAKRABARTI: So you know what Mayor DeBlasio has said about your industry. First of all, he says the horses who pull the carriages are abused, that they work long hours and live in squalid stalls and have to navigate dangerous New York City traffic. What's your response to that?

MALONE: Well, he's never come to see the living conditions, so he doesn't really have really any expertise in that. A bill was passed in 2010 that increased stall size, increase vet care, gave vacations to horses. And our facilities would match up against the police department and anybody else in this city.

CHAKRABARTI: So if this ban does goes through, what will happen to your horses?

MALONE: Nobody's taking my horse from me. I will fight tooth and nail to the grave. Nobody's stealing my horse from me. I haven't done anything wrong. I operate a legitimate business. It's licensed by the city of New York. I've never been summonsed for anything in regards to faulty business practices or any inhumane treatments, so nobody will take my horse from me. I will fight tooth and nail.

CHAKRABARTI: Well, before I let you go, I see that the New York City Council is already considering replacing the horses and carriages with electric cars to take tourists around Central Park. Is that not acceptable?

MALONE: Number one, these cars don't exist. And they want me to pay for them. So here's what they want to do. They want to take my job away from me. And then they want to tell me I have to operate another business, which I have to pay for, about $150,000, which the business plan was taken from a plan that they had in San Francisco that went belly up in March of 2012. OK? We have a legitimate thriving industry that is 99 percent walk-up, just from our image across the world for hundreds of years. You can't replace that with electric car.

CHAKRABARTI: Steve, I'm curious what you think about this. Mayor DeBlasio ran a campaign that talked about the two New Yorks: the rich and the working parts of New York. I imagine that you consider yourself a working man of New York City.

MALONE: Absolutely.

CHAKRABARTI: I'm just wondering what you think about that, that overall Bill DeBlasio actually has the working people of New York, their interests at heart.

MALONE: Well, he'll have their working interest at heart until somebody funds a campaign for millions of dollars in his pocket to go against something like what is happening to my industry right now.

CHAKRABARTI: Well, Steve Malone is with the Horse and Carriage Association of New York. He's speaking to us today from Long Island. Steve, thank you so much for your time today.

MALONE: It was my pleasure. Thank you so much.

CHAKRABARTI: Well, we'd love to hear your take on the move to ban New York's horse carriages. Let us know at hereandnow.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Whitesauce

    I wish we could have heard the opposing side on this subject.

    • StopTheInsanity

      Whitesauce – see my post above!

  • Jim Gawn

    Is there solid evidence that having horses work in cities is cruel per se? Seems unlikely to me. Horses have been working for people, in open countryside and congested cities alike, for thousands of years. They are bred to it and trained for it. Surely there are existing cruelty laws that can be enforced in proven cases of abuse. Similarly for carriage drivers who cause accidents, if there are any: there must already be laws requiring responsible driving, whether an engine or a set of strong legs supply the motive power. Enforce those laws; don’t rob these horses and operators of their livelihoods. And don’t deprive tourists and residents of a little bit of charm and beauty in the concrete jungle.

  • Rima

    This whole thing is ridiculous. If those horses were in anyway being treated inhumanely, PETA would have been all over it. There obviously is no real issue there. The horse and carriage business is a part and parcel of NYC and has been there long before people were driving automobiles. It is a wonderful thing for tourism-why would anyone want to discourage that? This is about taking away peoples’ rights to make a living the way THEY choose and forcing the government’s agenda down their throats.

  • StopTheInsanity

    PETA thinks that owning dogs and cats is cruel, so of course they are opposed to horse drawn carriages! The fact of the matter is that this whole issue has a money-driven side to it, in that the horse stables occupy lucrative real estate. As reasonable people can confirm for themselves, the horses have very good lives, don’t work very hard (pulling a carriage on pavement is child’s play for an 1800-lb draft horse), are well cared for, and have jobs. Their care is already strictly regulated by the city! You can go into their stables unannounced any time and see for yourself! Banning the industry would only add to the already-desparate situation of unwanted horses in the US, many of which end up being sent to slaughter in Mexico. This proposal by the mayor, who is now indebted to real estate developer Steve Nislick, would not help horses at all.

    • Whitesauce

      Not knowing a lot about PETA’s positions, I checked their website and they have no problem with companion animals, so your generalization is wrong. Here’s their opposing viewpoint on harse carriages. H&N’s story only presented the viewpoint of a carriage operator.


      • Chester

        I find nothing compelling at this link. Every equine discipline experiences injuries and occasional deaths, they are inevitable when you are dealing with living animals. I have actually been in the stables and seen first hand how these horses live, and they live better than most horses in rural areas. The ban supporters love throwing slaughter into the argument, as if the 100,000+ horses exported for slaughter every year are all somehow tied to the NYC carriage industry. In reality they can’t find one horse taken to a low end auction by a carriage operator, and if they could its face would be on billboards and bus ads everywhere to try to raise more money for their lobbying efforts. They occasionally try to pass off a horse that someone bought as a “rescued former carriage horse”, but that really is a complete bastardization of the concept of rescue.

      • Banner

        PETA is to animal rights as Westboro Baptist Church is to Christianity. They are an extreme group which is generally out of touch with reality. Quoting them as an expert source is ridiculous.

      • 999Greg

        PETA s headquarters “euthanizes” over 90% of it’s own animals. Just do a search on PETA Slaughter — you’ll find years worth of reports from a wide variety of sources.

        • Whitesauce

          I looked it up, and it’s true that PETA euthanized animals because they believe it’s humane. They admit it and don’t try to hide it. However, it’s also true that enemies of PETA, such as meat processors and fast-food restaurants, fund organizations that mislead people about the extent of PETA’s practices. You should keep reading.

          It’s important to note that “shoot the messenger” tactics usually only serve to blunt the message. The Humane Society of the US also supports the ban, and you could hardly call them extreme. They also have video — check it out. These horses work long days on congested roads that are not suited for animals. Often, they are walking behinds cars that are emitting pollution right into their faces. In addition to accidents, there are plenty of near-accidents. Finally, the NYC Comptroller found that these animals live in poor conditions.

          If you are willing to ignore these facts because you don’t like PETA, then I guess there’s not much to talk about. But while you are are searching for stuff about PETA, you should also google “horse carriage accidents.”

  • Scott

    This is an industry, and a lifestyle, that is of the common man. Horse people are salt of the earth, hard working, caring people. They do not harm or abuse their animals. I have seen this with my own two eyes (my daughter rides and volunteers near a prospect park based stable). Mayor DeBlasio allowed himself to be cornered into his position either based on his personal belief, or more importantly, the personal (and financial) beliefs of radical animal rights activists. He benefited (and likely took nice contributions) from their finances. If you examine some of these benefactors, they are very wealthy, and some will say have financial interests derived from banning the horses. In fact, they appear involved with the sale of the purported solution to the horses, called the “horseless carriage”, as well as real estate interests in an around the area where the current Manhattan horse stables are. For a “progressive” mayor who talks about inequality, he is siding with the exact people he indicates he will stand against. He can not have it both ways!

  • jefe68

    The horses will be put down and most will end up as pet food.
    I’m not sure I really believe him when he says they will have sanctuaries for them.
    The mayor’s being an a but hyperbolic here and I’m not sure electric buggies will cut it. Sounds like more of the Disneyfication of New York to me.

    Since when did Miley Cyrus and Alec Baldwin become people anyone should listen to about anything?


  • CircusMcGurkus

    Mayor DeBlasio has a lot to offer – this is NOT it. Horses belong in cities. These horses are well cared for since they are the livelihood of their carriage drivers. This is an absurd issue for the new Mayor to take on when his city has a lot of real problems to deal with. Horses, their owners, their carriage drivers, the tourists who enjoy this lovely diversion are not part of the problem. These are working horses – are working dogs similarly suspect – so disabled people have to be concerned that their assistants will be next?

    • Whitesauce

      I think there’s an important discussion to be had as to whether horses belong in modern cities. Check out the argument for banning these carriages.


      • CircusMcGurkus

        It is NOT cruel to work a draft horse, keep cats indoors or have dogs in a city. It’s just not. People really need to stop anthropomorphising to the point where they are substituting their own feelings and sentiments for those of an animal who cannot speak but can and does communicate. Horses on average weigh 1500 lbs. If they do not want to work, they will not move. Draft horses were bred to be docile, patient and muscular – they’re neither race horses nor mustangs. They are working animals who actually thrive on work. Work in the city is the ONLY life these horses know; they are as accustomed to the noise and the atmosphere as the people who live in cities (even though a lot of country folk could not imagine living in that kind of environment) and it is actually cruel to take them from a life they know with people they trust no matter what PETA thinks about it.
        I would like to see more horses in more cities – horses are majestic. Our mounted Park Ranger horses are a labor of love, fully volunteer supported with private money because the government wanted to kick them out because regular citizens wanted them to stay. Despite adamant pleas from police officers and many others, the BPD mounted unit was dissolved when the commissioner misled the city council about the cost of maintaining the animals and the program. The horses were likely traumatized when uprooted to a new place as horses are notoriously sensitive animals. And they were and are the most effective means of crowd control so we really lost something when the horses left.
        Go up to a Hansom Cab horse in any city and you will not see a malnourished, beaten, terrified nag – you will see a relaxed, contented animal out for his or her day’s work. This is a non-issue in a city that really, truly, unquestionably has bigger problems.

        • Whitesauce

          Your romanticized story does not do justice to the issue, since there are few facts. The city comptroller in NYC did an independent investigation and found many problems with the care of these animals. Also, the Humane Society of the US has a video on the subject that spells out the reasons for a ban. I’d love if someone could tell me what specifically they are getting wrong.

          • CircusMcGurkus

            If there are specific problems they should be addressed. I do not doubt that a video or two may exist of less than perfect treatment. Ask any parent on his or her worst day if that should be the standard bearing moment of that person’s parenthood. Banning is an overreaction. Policy should make sense. NYC has bigger problems than Hansom Cabs. It just does. The “city comptroller” for the record is a budget hawk, not an investigative branch for animal welfare. but the greatness of America allows us to agree to disagree.

          • Whitesauce

            The comptroller issued the report, which was done by the Departments of Health and Mental Hygiene, which oversees Veterinary Public Health Services, and Consumer Affairs. Both organizations have jurisdiction.

            Also, I think NYC can walk and chew gum at the same time. That’s why they have several departments that report to the mayor. Check out the report and judge for yourself.

  • jonathanpulliam

    Interesting peek at the new Mayor’s sense of priorities.

    • jefe68

      He might end of looking like a horses a$$…

  • rich4321


  • opposed

    I hope all those opposed to this stupid idea contact the city council so it won’t be approved.
    Please register your opinion.

  • Steve

    Should we ban Texas cowboys while we’re at it ? The only ‘inhumane’ aspect of this ridiculousness is mayor’s iron fisted ban. Expect more
    ‘progressive ‘ policies to follow

    • Whitesauce
      • karen

        PETA executes over 2/3 of the animals it “rescues”– their defense– death is preferable to a home! After all in their view animals are SLAVES and need to be freed– ask them where all these “freed” animals are going to go? For almost all of them it will be their death sentence– imagine a horse who is used to a stall, being feed and having all his needs taken care of suddenly finds himself on his own, along with a whole bunch of other horses in the same position–expect a lot of car vs horse accidents, gardens and lawns trampled, diseases being spread, now add to this mix domestic dogs, cats guinea pigs, hamsters, chickens, cows, goats, sheep etc etc and you can see how this is a completely unrealistic stance. Unless of course you think killing them is a better “solution” to their being kept as slaves.

        As far as the carriage horses go–horse rescue groups are being overwhelmed with abandoned and abused horses, to have them take in 200+ healthy well cared for horses would mean abused 200 horses would not be rescued. More likely these well cared for working horses will find themselves at auction because their owners can no longer afford to care for them and have no place for them to go. Auction of a healthy draft horse is usually a direct line to the slaughter house.

        The regulations detailing the way a carriage horse is cared for runs over forty pages.NY would be better off making their carriage horses the pride of the city, showing how well they are cared for and managed (they are regularly inspected and few if any REAL horse people abuse their horses). Be an example for the proper care and m,management of working horses in the city. (BTW the air quality in the city is actually better than it is upstate due to wind patterns– verified by research).

        If you follow the money and these organizations have spread a lot of it around including PETA CLASSNY and the ASPCA (CEO salary 1/2 a million) and you will see how much went to the new Mayors campaign and notice also that it is being led by a NY real estate mogul and that the stables for these horses are located on prime locations.

        • Whitesauce

          PETA euthanizes animals, it’s true. They don’t deny that they compassionately kills some animals. If you check out news articles on the practice, you’ll find a nuanced explanation. We could have a whole different conversation about CEO compensation at nonprofits, but considering the real work is done by regular people, I don’t see how it’s relevant.

          As for their care, I don’t see how horses who spend their days walking in traffic, breathing in car emissions for eight+ hours a day are being treated humanely. That’s just one of the reasons why the Humane Society also supports the ban. Even the NYC comptroller has found problems with the ways these animals are treated after conducting an independent investigation. Check out this video:


  • Brooke

    So if it is cruel to have a horse in the city then I suppose the mounted police are cruel, too. This is so absurd you can hardly believe it. Who wants to ride around Central Park in an electric car? The fools who are planning that must think the only purpose of touring the park is to see it. They do not understand that people want to EXPERIENCE it, and you do that from a carriage being pulled by a horse. Some people never would see a horse if it were not for the carriages. These are our roots as human beings, and these are the livelihoods of horses and people. It should be against the law to take away a working person’s livelihood when they have not been proven in a court of law to be negligent. These horses have wonderful, productive lives and have a job they benefit from performing. Draft horses need to work or they will grow fatty deposits around their hearts and die far too early. They were born to this type of work.

    • jonathanpulliam

      I’d enjoy the novelty of galloping around New York’s Central Park on a 2-ton robotic triceratops powered by compressed air, if it’s not too much trouble….

  • Uncialle

    Horses built America. These carriage horses work for a living just like the rest of us and are inspected often. They live well. The mayor has sold out to the animal-rights crazies, whose goal is NOT humane treatment of animals. Their goal is NO DOMESTIC ANIMALS, period. So if you let the guy take away this perfectly kind, legal business, watch out–your dogs and cats are next. Of course, the animal rights websites don’t say this because they want donations; but their spokespeople say this; their lobbyists say this, and they work toward this. Don’t be fooled.

    • Whitesauce

      Here’s the view of the Humane Society. Please let me know what they are specifically getting wrong. It’s important not to romanticize the situation. These horses sit in traffic breathing in exhaust fumes for 8+ hours a day. That’s just one of the problems with these carriages.


  • Libertarian

    Why are we talking about the carriages? Draft horses were bred to pull carts and carriages. As a horse owner, I don’t like it but I would not call it cruel. There is a greater awareness in the current environment on what constitutes proper treatment of horses. What’s next for this guy, Aqueduct, Belmont Park because horse racing is cruel? What is missing is the criticism of this blatant socialist! I can’t believe NYC elected this guy. How fickle is man. Remember the NYC of Dinkins? NYC was an embarrassment in the face of the world and De Blasio and his lesbian wife were his protege’s. They honeymooned in Cuba, for God’s sake! How did they get the visa? De Blasio is just starting with the carriages because they are easy targets and somebody is bankrolling him. The so-called working class De Blasio is moving into the historical Gracie Mansion…how convenient and proletariat of him. Wake-up America.

    • jefe68

      Lesbian wife? Are you serious? You really show yourself to be an intolerant and ignorant person.

      • Antoine

        Did we piss off a member of GLAAD?
        Too bad.

  • Jeeves

    I am a horse person, having ridden and worked with horses for over 30 years, bith in the UK and since I moved to New York City a dozen years ago.

    Like anyone concerned about animal welfare, I was alarmed to read allegations of abuse in the carriage industry, so I made it my business to look into it.

    I have spent hours on the hack line checking the horses, and have twice visited the stables – something which our new mayor has refused to do.

    I can say quite categorically that the NY carriage horses are amongst the best kept that I have ever seen. Thier roomy, climate controlled stalls are immaculately kept, and the horses’ working conditions are better than my own.

    The carriage horses are domesticated animals, selectively bred for thousands of years to do the job that they now do. Anyone with the slightest knowledge of equine body language can see that the horses on Central Park South are unstressed and contented.

    What doesn’t seem to be getting addressed is the new mayor’s motive for destroying a thriving, humane, tourist dollar attracting industry. A glance at the source of his campaign contributions may well provide the answer. He received funding and backing from one Steve Nislick – both directly and through a PAC. Nislick has been trying for years to get his hand on the stables on W 38th Street, which properties are even more desirable now that Hudson Yards are being developed and the 7 train extension is soon to open.

    The mayor has been bought, and his desire to destroy the carriage industry is little more than making good on repaying a bribe.

  • Vandermeer

    I like to visit NYC often… I don’t see that many people taking advantage of the horses. I’m with the mayor… put them out in a meadow!

  • Antoine

    There you go New York.
    You got yourself a mayor who will run your city like a dictatorship.

    You get the government you deserve.
    If you like the mayor you have, you can keep him. Period.

  • Nicky

    As a hoofcare practitioner, I know that horses, whether domesticated or wild, need to do a lot of walking, wild horses and those on large open range ranches walk 40+ miles a day. I would think that these horses are better off walking the miles, even on busy traffic filled streets, rather than being 20 hours or more a day in stalls as many horses are.

  • Max Roberts

    Is current use of horses for Central Park rides inhumane OR

    Is all use of horses for Central Park rides inhumane?

    If the first, specifically what is inhumane? If most reasonable people would agree, fix the specific wrong.

    If all use of horses for rides is inhumane, the Mayor is too politically correct and should find something worthier to grandstand about.

    Would it offend him to know that if horse rides are banned in Central Park, the horses are likely bound for the glue factory?.

  • Whitesauce

    Sorry to disappoint you, but I have nothing to do with PETA. However, I did want to make the other commenters aware of PETA’s position. Some people were exaggerating PETA’s positions, so I thought I would put end to the hyperbole. Anyway, there is lots of info that supports the ban. If you support horses walking for hours behind the tailpipe of an automobile, that’s fine. I don’t.

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