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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’s 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.”
MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI, HOST:
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.
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.