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Carriage horse drivers fighting rule that moves them inside Central Park

After a judge dismissed two lawsuits, the drivers filed a motion to reargue a rule to change their pick-up locations.

The animal rights group NYCLASS says the move inside the park is good for the horses, but the drivers disagree. (Credit: Craig Ruttle)

Horse-drawn carriage drivers are fighting a rule in effect Friday that will force them to move their pickup and drop-off locations from Central Park South to inside the park.

“As we have said since this rule change was announced, we have grave concerns about our horses' welfare during this move and afterwards,” carriage driver and industry spokeswoman Christina Hansen said in a statement Thursday. “Anyone who knows horses knows that they are creatures of habit and moving the horses from their usual safe and secure spots on Central Park South will cause undue stress and worry for them. Horses aren't cars; you can't just move them around like they're inanimate objects.”

The new rule, which was proposed by Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Department of Transportation (DOT) in August, says drivers can only pick up and drop off passengers inside the park at the Seventh Avenue, Sixth Avenue and Grand Army Plaza entrances. But the need to complete construction to facilitate the move gives the horses a reprieve until the end of February, when the "carriages will operate under the new rule," a Parks and Recreation Department spokesperson said. 

The carriage drivers filed a motion Thursday to reargue the rule after two lawsuits they had filed were dismissed by a Manhattan Supreme Court judge Wednesday. 

“While there remains a dispute over whether this proposed rule will best serve the health and well-being of the horses, such dispute is immaterial to this proceeding,” Judge Arthur Engoron wrote in his decision. 

Engoron also dismissed the argument that the DOT did not have authority to regulate the horse-drawn carriage industry, writing that the rule’s purpose is to “reduce the amount of time that horses spend alongside vehicular traffic,” which is well in the agency’s authority.

But, in their motion to reargue, the drivers say the judge did not address the “refusal of the DOT to meet with the industry” before writing the rule, which they claim is a violation of the City Charter.

The city’s law department dismissed the motion, saying in a statement, that it “lacks merit because the issues were already raised and considered by the court.”

Animal rights group New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets (NYCLASS), which has lobbied the city to ban horse carriages, applauded the judge’s ruling. 

“We are pleased with the court’s decision to allow the hackline locations to be moved into Central Park and off the car-choked Midtown streets,” NYCLASS executive director Edita Birnkrant said in a statement. “By shifting the hackline locations into the shaded entrances of Central Park, carriage horses will be subject to less heat and humidity throughout the summer and will no longer have to contend with cars and their exhaust traveling right next to them.”


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