Three years ago, Mayor de Blasio failed to get the City Council to ban Central Park’s horse carriages. Now, the mayor has revived this bizarre obsession, attempting to ban the horses by using traffic rules. He’s corrupting a key public-safety agency by forcing it to ignore data.
In late 2015, the mayor tried to fulfill a bizarre promise to a donor by banning carriages on animal-rights grounds. The months-long effort ended in disaster. The council declined to kill the industry’s 200 jobs. Exhaustive study had shown the horses are well-treated, well-stabled and well-regulated.
Now, the menace to this enduring small business is back.
Last week, the city Department of Transportation held a packed public hearing over a seemingly arcane rule. The DOT wants to eliminate horse-carriage stands along Central Park South, and instead move the horses into Central Park to wait for customers.
[Mayor de Blasio is] corrupting a key public-safety agency by forcing it to ignore data.
Isn’t the park better for the horses than the busy street?
No: As Christina Hansen, a carriage driver, noted, Central Park South is shadier than the proposed locations. Plus, the park stops are on a hill, while the street’s flat, which the horses prefer.
The horses would have to spend more time in traffic under the new proposal, including driving up busy Central Park West and Fifth Avenue, to get to the new stands (unless transportation officials expect them to drive around in Central Park the wrong way, endangering walkers and cyclists).
The transportation department says the point of all this is to “reduce the amount of time that horses spend alongside vehicular traffic, thereby . . . promoting the safety and well-being of the horses.”
DOT never thought this was critical before. As the agency notes, “this proposed rule was not included in [our] regulatory agenda for this fiscal year, because it was not contemplated.”
It isn’t explained by any new danger, either. Indeed, traffic-crash data show the opposite. In 2017, the section of Central Park South where horses congregate saw 12 injuries from traffic crashes (not involving horses). The similar stretch of Central Park West, with no horses, saw 20.
Nothing suggests Central Park South is particularly dangerous. Key horse-less Midtown intersections have as many injuries.
The real goal is to make the horse carriages invisible to people walking along the street — and put the horses out of businesses. “If we are not visible to passersby outside the park, how will potential customers find us? How will we compete with pedicab drivers outside the park?” asked driver Dimitar Krastev.
Just ask carriage-horse opponents. “This is a good way to legislate them out of business. In legal terms, it is constructive eviction,” one anti-horse activist said, echoing several speakers.
Many speakers weren’t interested in making roads safer — just faster for cars and trucks, and thus more dangerous.
Michael Riley, a former driver of a “5-ton truck in Manhattan,” said he was often “forced to slam on the brakes” to avoid horses. If you need to slam on the brakes for a large, visible, predictable carriage, you’re a danger to children walking.
The horses would have to spend more time in traffic under the new proposal, including driving up busy Central Park West and Fifth Avenue, to get to the new stands…
Another speaker complained that the horses are in the way of her taxicab. If you want a multi-line highway for high-speed vehicles and not an interesting cityscape that includes cyclists, walkers and, yes, horses, Manhattan isn’t the place for you.
Indeed, the traffic-safety science that DOT uses to design roads says that people (and animals) are safer in slower-speed environments, not fast thoroughfares.
Speeding up traffic along Central Park South — or giving space for double-parked cars like the one whose driver contributed to the death of bicyclist Madison Lyden on Central Park West this August — would cause more injuries (to people and animals), not fewer.
Using road safety as a pretext to please donors has another negative effect.
De Blasio’s DOT needs public support for big projects — including its looming mega-project to rebuild the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. It would potentially close the Brooklyn Heights promenade for years and harm the quality of life for residents and visitors.
The DOT says it’s necessary. But if we can’t believe the agency on something simple — horses — how can we believe it on something complex?
This piece originally appeared in the New York Post
This article is republished with permission from our friends at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.
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