Op-Ed: Put the car before the horse in Central Park - NYCLASS

Op-Ed: Put the car before the horse in Central Park

For decades, horse-drawn carriages have been lined up around Central Park ready to take tourists and New Yorkers through one of the most magnificent places on Earth, Central Park.

19 April 2013
By Allie Feldman

Courtesy of NYCLASS

Photo credit: Courtesy of NYCLASS

For decades, horse-drawn carriages have been lined up around Central Park ready to take tourists and New Yorkers through one of the most magnificent places on Earth, Central Park.

But what looks like a wonderfully romantic experience is in fact one of the largest instances of animal cruelty in the city and is an antiquated form of tourism. That's why NYCLASS (New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets) has created a 21st century alternative that will protect the horses, boost tourism and increase safety. More than 30 City Council members favor a pilot program to replace the horse-drawn carriages with an eco-friendly, electric, vintage-car. Yet Council Speaker Christine Quinn refuses to allow the pilot to move forward.

The first "horseless carriage" is now being built (there's a picture of a model at amNY.com). This alternative to the horse-drawn carriages will ultimately increase revenue to the city and help modernize our tourism landscape. The purpose of the pilot, financed 100 percent by NYCLASS, is to test one prototype, giving members of the council, residents and drivers the opportunity to witness firsthand just how viable these cars can be.

Carriage horses suffer cruel treatment daily. They are exposed to harsh climates and automobile fumes, putting their health in jeopardy. The horses are forced to maneuver through dense city traffic, which has resulted in 18 accidents since 2011 -- horses have collapsed, been hit by vehicles, or been spooked and crashed. Many of the horses are killed after they are retired.

In addition to the safety benefits, after the complete fleet of 68 electric cars replaces the 68 carriages, the number of jobs will be equal to or greater than the number of jobs provided through the horse-drawn carriage industry, according to research by HR&A.

According to another study commissioned by NYCLASS and conducted by Sam Schwartz Engineering, the projected annual revenue to the city from a full fleet of cars would be $33 million, compared to the $19 million the horse-drawn carriages currently bring in, because there would be lower operating costs and fewer days off due to weather restrictions. It's senseless that Quinn continues to resist even a pragmatic, free trial. It's time to create a 21st century tourism alternative.

Allie Feldman is lead organizer for NYCLASS (nyclass.org).

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