New proposal may replace Central Park carriages with old-fashioned cars

Your romantic ride through Central Park on a horse-drawn carriage could soon be replaced with a romantic drive.

13 October 2011

Your romantic ride through Central Park on a horse-drawn carriage could soon be replaced with a romantic drive.

New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets, a nonprofit group that lobbies for the removal of carriage horses from New York City, joined the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals last Thursday to reveal a scaled model of a vintage car that could replace horse carriages if legislation is passed.

The bill, known as Intro 86, has been stalled for more than a year but if passed would phase out current horse carriage medallions in exchange for car medallions, preserving the income of current drivers.

Since its founding in 2008, NYCLASS has worked to push legislation that would ban the horse carriages industry, which they say is inhumane, from New York City. But according to NYCLASS executive director Carly Marie Knudson, it soon became clear that a replacement was needed to preserve the jobs of current carriage drivers.

"NYCLASS was formed to address the issue and to provide what we believe to be a viable alternative that is humane and safe," Knudson said.

With an eye toward capturing the same exhilaration a carriage ride through Central Park brings, carmaker Jason Wenig of the Creative Workshop set out to design a 1909-style automobile.

"My drive was to create a car that hammers home the romance of that era without any of the potential negative baggage that we all know that these horses could bring," Wenig said.

Currently, the city regulates 210 licensed carriage horses and 68 licensed carriages. Regulations mandate that horses cannot work more than nine hours a day and must be walked back to stables if the temperature is either above 90 degrees or under 18 degrees. The animals also must take five-week vacations every year at pastures outside the city and undergo two veterinarian checkups.

The cars, propelled by lithium-ion batteries that can fuel each car for up to 10 hours, would leave no carbon footprint. Projected costs of manufacturing the car are currently estimated between $125,000 and $175,000. Other financial considerations are still being discussed with the city.

Karl Breun, who has driven horse carriages for 11 years, said the replacement would lose the personal element of intimacy that so often brings visitors to the park.

"Kids, families - they love to come here just to see the horses," he said. "They're not going to like to come here and pet the side of a car that's parked here on the side of a street."

Tourists traveling to Central Park expressed mixed reactions to the news.

"The horse-drawn carriages have a nice feel, but I definitely agree with the statement that maybe it'd be better to get the horses off the street," said Leandra Burke, a 19-year-old visiting from Toronto.

But Lisa Barrett, 41, from Arizona, disagreed.

"I think it would take away from some of the history and charm of the city. This is my first time here, and I really enjoyed seeing it on the carriage with the horse," Barrett said. "I don't think [the new cars] would have the same charm."

Washington Square News

by Tony Chau


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