NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – New York City’s iconic horse-drawn carriage rides in Central Park are no longer allowed to board on the street, and their drivers are not happy about the change.
Hours after going into effect, those new rules were already causing controversy.
While some are calling it a victory for animal rights, others say it puts the animals in even more danger.
The horse-drawn carriages took their usual route through New York City traffic to come to work, but instead of parking along Central Park South, the carriage stands are now at various entrances in the park.
Some are on a downhill grade and carriage drivers say that puts added physical stress on the horses.
“They simply cannot rest standing downhill,” carriage driver Christina Hansen explained. “We cannot park our horses downhill. We will not.”
Department of Transportation crews were still working Friday morning to create barriers for the new carriage stands. Among the complaints is that the new location between the barrier and white lines is not big enough.
For now carriages are parked on the other side of the street.
Carriage drivers also say their routes have to be longer because of the location and the new rules have shortened their work hours costing the industry even more money.
“This is a way to make things safer and more humane for everyone,” Edita Birnkrant, executive director of New York Class argued. “I think all the manufactured hysteria is just that: It’s a refusal to adapt to a changing city. This is a very minor change.”
Supporters are applauding the change, claiming a horse could easily be spooked by the growing traffic and noise at their old location. There were 20 collisions with carriages in the last two years.
“Anyone who stands at 59th Street and sees the constant traffic knows that no sensitive being like a horse should be stuck there nine hours day and night,” Birnkrant added.
Mayor de Blasio campaigned on the issue when he first ran for office, but little has been done since he took office.
“This is not about the horses. This is not about the working people of New York,” said Hansen. “This is about a political promise that Mayor Bill de Blasio made to New York Class.”
The fear is that the changes are the beginning of the end for this iconic New York City institution.
The carriage industry continues to fight the changes in court. They argued their case in front of the State Supreme Court on Friday. If they lose the case, they’re already preparing to appeal.