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Midtown Accident Reignites Horse-Drawn Carriage Debate

Critics Sound The Alarm, While Mayor Bloomberg Points Out Accidents Happen
Carriage horse and car collide at Columbus Circle. (credit: CBS 2)

Carriage horse and car collide at Columbus Circle. (credit: CBS 2)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – There are new calls for the banning of horse-drawn carriages following Thursday’s accident in Midtown.

A 6-year-old black and white Gelding named “Oreo” went on a wild ride after getting frightened near Columbus Circle and Central Park South.

The horse took off, eventually crashing the carriage into a vehicle, injuring two tourists and the driver. Oreo was eventually corralled blocks away. The horse was recovering Friday in his stall at Clinton Stables.

1010 WINS’ Stan Brooks reports

“He’s got a couple of minor scrapes but now that the vets cleaned that up they are hardly visible,” said Christina Hansen, of the Horse and Carriage Association Of New York City.

It is unclear when he might be back on the streets.

The driver is recuperating in his Dyker Heights neighborhood. He received more than two dozen stitches on one leg and some wounds on the other. He’ll be out of work for about two months, but he said he’s just happy the tourists and the horse are okay, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported.

The accident has once again triggered the debate over whether horse-drawn carriages should be banned.

On his radio show Friday morning, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said despite this latest incident, he still supports horse-drawn carriages in the city.

“We certainly aren’t banning automobiles every time there’s an accident,” Bloomberg said.

Hansen agreed, telling CBS 2’s Kramer: “We don’t call and scream on the street corners for bans of bicycles when bicyclists run over people in the park on accidents. Accidents happen. We do everything in our power to prevent them, but that’s life.”

The mayor stressed that the number of accidents involving horse-drawn carriages is small and the animals are well-cared for.

“The Health Department and the ASPCA make sure they’re healthy. As long as they’re treated well I think it’s something that a lot of tourists really love,” Bloomberg added. “It makes New York, New York. It would be a shame to lose them.”

But critics said the accident proves that the law must change. Scott Levenson of New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets said he wants the city to say “neigh” and ban horse-drawn carriages.

“This is the 13the accident over the last 12 months. It’s not a question of if something’s going to happen in this industry; it’s just a question of when,” Levenson told CBS 2’s Kramer.

“It’s inhumane treatment to the animal and a huge danger to the area,” State Sen. Tony Avella said.

“The horse-drawn carriage industry is inherently dangerous,” said Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal. “Despite claiming to have taken every available precaution, the industry cannot ensure the basic safety of the horses or the public.”

Rosenthal is renewing her call for passage of a bill she introduced in June 2011 that would ban horse-drawn carriages in New York and require humane relocation of the horses released from service.

Thursday’s accident apparently did little to scare tourists away from taking carriage rides. It was as busy as ever around Central Park on Friday, but it’s clear that this is one municipal debate that is not going away any time soon.

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