A deal to reduce the number of horse-drawn carriages in New York City and permanently move stables to Central Park will now go to the City Council for approval in a compromise between the drivers and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who had pledged to end the popular rides.
The mayor, the union representing carriage drivers and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said late Sunday they reached a deal that would reduce the number of horses from about 180 to 95 and confine operations to the park. It's unclear whether the agreement would include compensation for carriage drivers who lose their jobs.
"We are pleased to have reached an agreement in concept on the future of New York's horse carriage industry," they said in a joint statement. "We look forward to working together on the final details of this legislation and getting this passed."
The City Council will hold hearings in the next few weeks and then vote on the agreement.
Under the terms, the number of hours per day a carriage may operate will be reduced to nine and carriages will be able to charge an extra $5 for trips after 6 p.m. between Nov. 15th and Jan. 5, and on Valentine's Day or Easter. A stable must be established within Central Park for the horses by October 2018 with room for 68 carriages and 75 horses.
Currently, the horses stay at four privately owned stables on Manhattan's West Side. Horses not at work must be on a furlough outside the city, according to the deal.
The move to the park would address one complaint from animal welfare activists: that the horses were in danger every time they made their daily walks from their staging area at the south end of the park to the urban stables where they now stay the night. But Elizabeth Forel of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages said the agreement seemed like "a sleazy real estate deal."
"Street traffic was never the sole reason we advocated for a ban," she said Monday. "There are many other reasons including the sensitive, nervous nature of the horses; the very high turnover, which leads us to believe many of the unwanted go to the kill auctions, and punishing working conditions."
When de Blasio was sworn in two years ago, he pledged to end the popular carriage rides through the park right away, calling it inhumane to keep horses in loud, car-clogged Manhattan.