The use of horse-drawn carriages in the city is turning out to be a big issue in New York City’s mayoral race with candidates on both sides debating over whether or not they should be banned.
Animal advocates have long been arguing that the city’s modern environment is no place for horses, not only because of the noise, activity and pollution, but also because current laws aren’t tough enough to protect them and because of the potential for accidents that could injure both horses and people.
Last August three people were injured when a horse named Oreo spooked when metal beams were dropped at a construction site. Oreo took off, ditched the driver and two tourists who were in the carriage, crashed into a parked van and moving car before the carriage broke apart and continued to run another four blocks before stopping. Fortunately, Oreo survived, but his was just another incident that prompted calls to shut this industry down.
Candidate Christine C. Quinn, City Council Speaker, has come under fire for her continued support of horse-drawn carriages. She was the target of a $1 million ad criticizing her support for keeping carriages that was funded in part by members of New Yorkers for Clean, Livable & Safe Streets (NYCLASS) – a lobby group that has been trying to get carriage horses out of the city. The group recently created a coalition dedicated to defeating Quinn – New York is Not For Sale 2013.
“We can’t have a mayor who is a bully like that,”Allie Feldman, lead organizer for NYCLASS told the International Business Times. “If she talks like that to humans, imagine how she would treat non-human residents, who literally have no voice.”
Quinn’s opponent Bill de Blasio, the city’s Public Advocate, has simultaneously gained support and campaign donations from animal lovers and made a promise to ban horse-drawn carriages first thing if he gets elected.
“I would ban the horse carriages in Central Park within the first week on the job,” he said at forum in March. “I think it’s horrible what happens to the horses. I think it’s unnecessary and doesn’t do anything for our economy, much to the chagrin of the mayor who thinks it’s at the center of our tourism economy.”
De Blasio has criticized Quinn and Mayor Bloomberg for ignoring public calls to ban carriage horses, and took a jab at Bloomberg for saying that doing away with them would kill the city’s tourism industry, like they’re the only reason anyone goes there.
One of Quinn’s arguments is that losing carriage horses would mean losing jobs for an estimated 300 licensed carriage operators, but NYCLASS and others are supporting Intro 86A, legislation that would involve swapping out horses for vintage replica electric cars to keep drivers employed, which it believes will bring in millions more in revenue and allow drivers greater flexibility with fewer restrictions when it comes to work hours and rest requirements. This legislation currently has 15 co-sponsors and is being led by Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. NYCLASS believes it will have a working prototype finished by the end of the year.
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