Central Park: Horses, pedicabs and De Blasio

Horse-drawn carriage rides have long served as an iconic attraction for many residents and visitors in the Big Apple. During his campaign for mayor at the end of 2013 Bill De Blasio promised to end horse-drawn carriage rides in New York City on his first day as mayor.  Mayor announced that the carriages would be gone for good by the end of 2014. He wants to replace them with “old-timey” electric cars.  More than two years ago in November 2013 I published a  post about the horses in  Central Park.  I also wrote about the horses a year ago, in January 2014.


This proposal to  save driver jobs by replacing the horse-drawn carriages with electric replicas of old-fashioned cars was rejected by the union and by council members who said Central Park needs fewer vehicles, not more.


The new plan was announced over the last weekend on Sunday, January 17 by Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The compromise deal would reduce the number of horses from about 180 to 95, operating from new stables built in the park by October 2018, with room for 68 carriages and 75 horses.


The remaining horses rotate on furloughs outside the city.   The deal, effective June 1, 2016    also  limits their labor to nine hours a day by Dec. 1, 2016.    This proposal  also  ban carriages   from Manhattan streets.


But in exchange for slimming down their carriage fleets, the mayor also offered the carriages   an effective monopoly over the southern end of Central Park by barring pedicabs from operating south of 85th Street.



The deal, which must still be approved by City Council, would restrict the operations of pedicabs starting in June. 

In 2014 city’s tourism industry generated record $61.3 billion in economic impact, supporting 359,000 tourism-related jobs.  Fears that the strengthening U.S. dollar would reverse the steady increase in tourism to New York City have not been realized. In fact, international visits jumped 7% in 2014 from the prior year, while domestic tourism grew 3%.



Horse carriages and pedicabs were used mostly by the tourists.  In 2015 tourists had a choice- they could use  only carriages below 85th street.  So starting from next summer there is no choice- there is a monopoly.  I'm completely sure that the prices for carriage rides will go up. 
The solution is being widely criticized. Pedicab drivers are angry because the agreement would impose restrictions that could put them out of business.  The horse-carriage drivers are upset that some of them would lose their jobs. 



It's not clear whether the deal would include any compensation for carriage drivers who lose their jobs. What will happen with more than one hundred retired  horses? Nobody knows....

Its estimated that the city would spend $25 million to convert the park maintenance building into a suitable home for the horses. The move to use public parkland for a private industry has raised red flags with park advocates.  




 Does it make sense  to spend more than $20 million on a new  stable if there are already  working stables in a good condition? Why should the city use any of our tax money to pay for private stables?

What will happen with  privately-owned and operated stables in operation now that are between W. 37th and W. 52nd Streets, off of 11th Avenue?   This proposal  would  free up for new development the greatly valuable Midtown West buildings currently used to house the horses.  
A year ago
Curbed published an interesting article about the price of the stables: 
A 7,000-square-foot functioning stable on West 37th Street, purchased in 1979 for $90,000, could fetch up to $10 million. The West Side Livery, a 9,600-square-foot stable a block north, is in the same ballpark. The city's two other stables, west of Eleventh Avenue on 48th and 52nd streets, find themselves in the immediate vicinity of the Hudson Yards development.


The mayor’s office referred to the agreement as “an agreement in concept” and council hearings still need to be held. Still  approval is likely. 

As I know  a developer who was a contributor to the Mayor's campaign had designs on the land where the horses were stabled. So  we  wait and see what will be built on the place of the stables.