Horse-drawn carriage drivers caught in apparent violation of new hack line rule

A horse-drawn carriage driver picked up two passengers in Times Square on Sept. 30, according to a video shot by the advocacy group NYCLASS. Photo Credit: New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets

A carriage horse industry spokeswoman argued that the drivers weren’t doing anything wrong.

A horse-drawn carriage driver picked up two passengers in Times Square on Sept. 30, according to a video shot by the advocacy group NYCLASS.
A horse-drawn carriage driver picked up two passengers in Times Square on Sept. 30, according to a video shot by the advocacy group NYCLASS. Photo Credit: NBC / Virginia Sherwood

Horse-drawn carriage drivers in Manhattan were caught on video in apparent violation of a rule restricting where they can pick up passengers, but an industry spokeswoman said the drivers weren’t doing anything wrong.

Earlier this year, the city implemented a rule that moved the 59th Street hack line to three locations inside Central Park. But in videos recorded by the advocacy group New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets (NYCLASS), drivers were seen picking up and soliciting passengers as many as 15 blocks outside of the park. 

One driver is seen picking up two people on Seventh Avenue and 44th Street in Times Square on Sept. 30, and another is seen offering to give a ride from outside the American Museum of Natural History on Central Park West in April.

In the latter, a member of NYCLASS is heard asking the driver if the carriage ride would leave from outside the museum.  

“You can hop in here,” he says. “Then I can drop you off at a destination. I’ll show you the map … wherever you want to be dropped off.”

NYCLASS, which has called for a complete ban on horse-drawn carriages in the city but was in favor of the relocated hack lines, said the city needs to do a better job enforcing the new rule. 

“Since implementing that change the city has completely failed to enforce the new rules,” said Edita Birnkrant, executive director of NYCLASS. “The predictable result being countless drivers recklessly endangering their horses by unlawfully soliciting rides not just at the old hack line location on 59th Street and outside the Natural History museum, but now brazenly in the heart of Times Square. If the city isn’t willing to enforce the new rules, they’re meaningless.”

The NYPD is tasked with enforcing the hack line rule, a spokeswoman said. No summons was issued for the ride from Times Square on Sept. 30.

Christina Hansen, a spokeswoman for the carriage driver industry, argued that city law allows carriages in Times Square after 11:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and after 7 p.m. on Sundays.

“If NYCLASS is right that the rule prohibits this otherwise legal and safe behavior, and the city’s own lawyers were wrong to make the distinction between carriages during the day working at the park and night carriages working traditionally in the streets, it therefore means that the rule is in conflict with the law and should be thrown out in accordance with our legal arguments, which are coming up for appeal in November,” Hansen said. 

But NYCLASS says even if the carriages are allowed in Times Square, they can’t make pickups there, per the rule passed earlier this year.

Hansen also said carriages are allowed on the streets adjacent to Central Park and argued that the driver outside the American Museum of Natural History wasn’t at fault for being there.

She accused NYCLASS of “harassing” the drivers, who are “working-class people trying to give carriage rides and make a living.”

The Department of Transportation and the mayor’s office, which originally proposed the hack line rule, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Nicole Brown