Figueroa-Levin: Give carriage horses room to roam after work
I've always felt uncomfortable walking past the row of horse-drawn carriages outside Central Park. I'm not afraid of a horse freaking out and kicking me, but I always feel bad for them just standing there next to all the traffic.
I feel even worse when I see them actually in the traffic, making their way back to the West Side, to the few stables left in Manhattan.
It's become an issue in the mayoral campaign. Front-runner Bill de Blasio wants to ban the carriage industry "right away," while Christine Quinn has been branded an "animal hater" by one group because she wants the horses to stay.
Yes, it's a fun ride, and a novelty. And yes, this brings some money to the city. But horses aren't meant to stand around fume-filled, crowded streets all day.
Now, I know these horses have better medical care than many city residents. I know they get more vacation time than even the executives on Wall Street. But tons of major cities have banned carriage rides, including Toronto, Paris, London, Las Vegas and even Beijing. Animals working for humans is one of the things that built New York, but we've moved on.
I don't think that people who want to keep horse-drawn carriages in the city hate animals. And they're not bad people.
But if horses wearing silly hats and carting tourists around while eating lunch out of a bag attached to their faces is really an important part of New York City culture, then we should move the horses to Central Park. Let's give them one of the fields to run around and be horses in, and build a nice stable near the zoo so they don't have to worry about getting hit by a cab on the way home after a long day's work.
The horses would be happier and the developers frothing at the mouth to get their hands on the stables to turn them into expensive condos will squeal like pigs in a fresh mud puddle.
If life for horses in the city can be more than streets and stables, if they can exercise daily outside of work, then let them stay.
As for the tourists, if the city did ban the carriage-horse industry completely, I doubt anyone would say to themself, "No more horse-drawn carriages? That's it! We're going to Cleveland instead!"
Rachel Figueroa-Levin tweets as @Jewyorican, @EveryGentrifier and @ElBloombito.