NEW YORK — New York City's mayor, who once promised to ban horse-drawn carriages "on Day One" of his administration, announced a more modest plan Thursday to move the boarding area for the carriages from the southern edge of Central Park to designated spots inside the park.
Democrat Bill de Blasio ran for mayor in 2013 vowing to end what he saw as the inhumane practice of carriage horses ferrying tourists through Central Park and surrounding streets. "We are going to quickly and aggressively move to make horse carriages no longer a part of the landscape," he pledged.
But a bill to phase out the industry died in the City Council amid opposition from carriage horse supporters, and since then city officials have focused on making the industry safer.
Under the plan announced Thursday, horse-drawn carriages awaiting fares would be relocated from Central Park South to five nearby boarding areas inside the park.
"By limiting boarding of horse-drawn cabs to designated areas within Central Park, the amount of time that horses spend alongside vehicular traffic will be reduced, thus reducing potential harm to the animals," city Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said.
But Elizabeth Forel, president of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages, said it's not enough to move the horses away from the busy street where they currently enjoy their feedbags while waiting for passengers.
"Horses are prey animals and can spook and bolt at the slightest provocation," Forel said. "They are massive, strong animals who can become unwitting weapons, injuring or killing themselves or passers-by. This can happen on Central Park South or in the park."
City officials said they expect the plan to take effect this fall after a public hearing planned for October.