A model of the faux-vintage electric car that horse advocates say could replace carriage horses in New York, with Ed Sayres, left, and Steve Nislick of NY-Class, the group that sponsors the cars.
The faux-vintage electric car that horse advocates want to replace Central Park's carriage horses has classic white-walled tires, running boards, mahogany and an "ah-hoogah" horn.
On Thursday, in a fourth-floor conference room of Manhattan's Hippodrome - where circus horses once performed - Jason Wenig set a model of it across the table from the car's sponsors.
"Brass is going to be everywhere, and it's going to be shiny and beautiful," said Mr. Wenig, who runs a customized car design shop in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
NY-Class, a nonprofit group that lobbies for the removal of the carriage horses from New York City, revealed the car for the first time on Thursday.
NY-Class, which stands for New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets, paid $12,500 to have the two-foot-long lime green model built. It is based on turn-of-the-20th-century cars. Lanterns perch on its sides. Tiny baskets that would carry a driver's lunch or extra blankets hang from it. Its convertible top rolls back in sections. The car is intended to hold up to six tourists.
Since its founding in 2008, NY-Class has been promoting "replacing" the city's carriage horses with 68 electric cars, one of several proposals by animal-rights advocates over the years to get rid of the carriage horse industry, which they say is inhumane.
Last year, a City Council measure pushed by NY-Class was introduced that would gradually phase out carriages horses and create a new class of for-hire low-emissions vehicles called "show cars" that would resemble antique cars, operate from a fixed place in the city and charge rates competitive with carriage-horse rates,
Advocates hope that carriage owners would trade their carriage licenses for show car medallions.
According to a feasibility study sponsored by NY-Class, the plan would preserve carriage industry's jobs and generate slightly more taxable revenue. It is estimated that the cash-based carriage horse industry pulls in $15 million annually.
"They're guaranteed not to urinate or defecate in the middle of your romantic moment," added Ed Sayres, co-president of NY-Class and president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which supports NY-Class.
But support for the bill, known as Intro 86, is limited; it has been stalled for more than a year, in part because the city adopted a competing bill last year that raised the fares carriage horse drivers could charge and ensured that the horses got five weeks' rest in a pasture outside the city.
Intro 86 has also been met with stiff resistance from the carriage horse industry.
"I don't think there are any kids out there that are going to want to pet and kiss the fender of a car," said Cornelius Bryne, owner of one of the city's four carriage horse stables.
The cars are projected to cost $125,000 to $175,000. NY-Class envisions that a nonprofit group that provides financing to start-ups would buy the cars and lease them to drivers for $21,000 a year. By comparison, purchasing a new horse and carriage costs $15,000 on average.
If produced, the cars would operate on five lithium-ion battery packs, weighing up to 1000 pounds. In the ideal design, the batteries could last for 10 hours on a two-to-three-hour charge. In Central Park, the cars would cruise at five miles per hour, but they would be able to reach a top speed of 35 m.p.h.
Mr. Wenig said that once he got the green light, he could have prototypes on the road in a year.
by Emily B. Hager
Photo by Marilyn K. Yee