Horse drawn carriages pull up to Central Park for a snowy day of work, but for the first time in more than a century, they cannot wait for passengers along Central Park South. They must now load and unload in one of three designated zones just inside the Park.
“This is a real animal rights victory for carriage horses,” said Edita Birnkrant, Executive Director of NYCLASS.
NYCLASS is an animal rights group that pushed for the change, spending large sums of money in the 2013 mayoral election to support Bill de Blasio, who promised to ban horse carriages entirely. After his election, the City Council refused to go along, but de Blasio was able to prohibit the carriages from loading and dropping off passengers outside the park.
“This rule change rights that wrong and simply moves the horses into the car free entrances to the park,” said Edita Birnkrant.
Initially, the de Blasio administration had designed five boarding locations in the park. But that was reduced in the last few weeks to just three locations all along Central Park South.
The city Transportation Department worked into Friday morning installing barriers to create safe loading zones and positioning troughs for the horses.
Carriage operators say moving the boarding zones inside the park will devastate their business.
“Our Carriages are not visible to the public from 59th Street like they were before when passersby could ask us questions and pet the horses,” said Christina Hansen, a carriage operator.
Still, some tourists had no trouble finding some of the new loading zones.
“We just told our Uber driver what we wanted and he got us right here,” said Laurie Fowler who was visiting from Athens, Georgia.
Operators say the slope of the new loading zone at on the east side of the 7th Avenue will hurt the horses because the weight of the carriages will lean against them. On Friday, operators parked on the west side, so horses can stand uphill with the weight pulling away.
The City Parks Department and NYPD are both charged with enforcing the new regulations about the drop off and pick up zones for horse carriages. But according to City Hall, emphasis is being placed on educating carriage operators and members of the public about the new regulations before ticketing starts.