CENTRAL PARK — Another effort to ban horse-drawn carriages from Central Park is taking shape in the City Council — winning support from several lawmakers whose districts border the park, while others criticize their proposed replacement.
A bill introduced last month by Queens Councilmember Robert Holden would “wind down” the horse carriages starting in June 2024 by preventing the city from issuing any new licenses.
They would then be replaced by “electric low-speed vehicles” that could circle the park at no more than 3 miles per hour — although they would be capable of driving at up to 25 miles per hour, according to the bill.
The bill has won support from nine other lawmakers — including, notably, three members whose districts border Central Park.
It’s far from the first effort to ban the controversial carriages, which have long been targeted by animal rights activists who call them inhumane. Bill de Blasio was elected mayor in 2013 in part by promising to ban them “on day one” — but he failed to do so, despite a last-minute push just before he left office last year.
Potential bans have been fiercely opposed by carriage drivers and their union, who contend that bans would destroy their livelihoods and insist that the horses are well cared for.
But critics of the carriages cite a number of high-profile incidents, such as a June case where a spooked horse galloped into oncoming traffic near Fifth Avenue.
“My bill will save these horses from a lifetime of hardship, increase income for the carriage drivers and create an impressive tourist attraction,” Holden wrote in an op-ed published in the Daily News on Wednesday.
Proposed replacement is criticized
Supporters of the new bill span ideological lines — Holden is a conservative Democrat, while fellow sponsors include Republican Joann Ariola and socialist Kristin Richardson Jordan.
Richardson Jordan, who represents Harlem, is one of the three park-adjacent lawmakers sponsoring the new bill, alongside Erik Bottcher of Midtown and Keith Powers of the East Side.
Three other Council members whose districts border the park have not signed onto the legislation: Shaun Abreu, Diana Ayala and Gale Brewer, whose Upper West Side district also covers Central Park itself.
Brewer told Patch on Thursday that she has long supported efforts to get horses off the city’s streets. But she opposes the new bill for its plan to replace the horses with electric vehicles, noting that she had written the bill that led the city to ban cars from Central Park in 2018.
“I can’t say now that I want to put the cars back in Central Park,” Brewer said.
The exact specifications of the new vehicles are not clear, although previous proposals have called for old-school, carriage-style cars reminiscent of an early-20th-century automobile.
Others have made similar arguments against the bill. Nicole Gelinas, a New York Post columnist and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, tweeted that the legislation would create a “massive new for-hire motor-vehicle industry all through midtown & Central Park.”
The road-safety group StreetsPAC echoed the critique, calling the bill a “bad idea.”
The bill is now pending before the Council’s health committee.
Mayor Eric Adams has previously said he would not support banning the carriages, although a spokesperson told Gothamist last year that he was “open to discussing the issue.”
Existing horse-drawn carriage drivers would be given priority to get licenses for the new vehicles under Holden’s bill — and could eventually purchase the electric cars outright. Drivers would be paid a prevailing wage set by the city.
Although the carriages were never banned during the de Blasio administration, the city did pass laws to prevent the carriages from picking up passengers outside Central Park, and requiring horses to be returned to the stable when temperatures get too high.