Carriage deal for Central Park makes horse sense

The agreement on the use of carriage horses in NYC serves as a necessary compromise that will keep the horses safe, but still maintain their iconic presence.

The deal by Mayor Bill de Blasio, the City Council and union leaders who represent the carriage drivers will reduce the number of flower-bedecked horses from 200 to 95, with just 75 working at any time. It’ll limit the carriages to Central Park, rather than have the horses trot the streets. And it’ll provide new stables in the park, so horses won’t compete with traffic when commuting to work.

The agreement achieves the goal of keeping the horses off busy streetswhile maintaining one of the city’s most cherished tourist attractions, and the jobs that come with it.

Concerns remain and there are many details still unknown. A city spokesman said yesterday that all existing carriage businesses will remain viable, but it’s unclear what the reduction of horses means for total jobs. There’ve been no specifics on the cost of new stables, and park advocates worry about using parkland for a for-profit industry. But concessionaires, including stables, are in city park facilities now, and using a maintenance building like the one near 85th Street — one not used by the public — makes sense.

Included in the deal are restrictions on pedicabs, which won’t be permitted in Central Park below 85th Street. Those drivers must be part of the final plan, and their livelihoods shouldn’t be limited for the carriage drivers’ benefit. There’s plenty of business to go around.

Animal rights activists ran an expensive campaign to ban the carriage horses in the 2013 mayoral race, rallying behind de Blasio, who took up their cause. They have no comment yet about the mayor’s compromise, but they, too, should be pleased. The deal keeps horses away from traffic dangers, and it maintains standards on temperature, vacations and other issues to keep the animals unharmed. It’s critical that those regulations are followed, and that the new stables are well-maintained and inspected.

The loud voices, from activists to City Council members to union officials, should come together behind this compromise, clarify the details and move on, so that this spring is a bright one for horses, drivers and tourists alike.