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A carriage horse collapsed on W45th Street and 9th Avenue late Wednesday afternoon, drawing a large crowd and eliciting a rushed response from the NYPD Mounted Unit.
“I was walking home and saw police racing by — and could tell something was up,” said Hell’s Kitchen local Paul Devlin. “There was a horse lying on the ground — the carriage was a few feet back and it didn’t look like it had been hit. By the time I got there, an officer from the NYPD Mounted Unit was already there,” he added. “The officers then shut down the block.”
Witnesses said the Mounted Unit officer cared for the horse, a 14-year-old known as Ryder — hosing the animal down and cooling it off with ice procured from local restaurants — as onlookers shouted advice from the sidewalk. The distraught horse carriage driver checked on his animal but ceded control of its care to the officers on hand. Devlin added that officers found a pillow to keep the horse comfortable.
“A vet arrived on the scene, and I heard him say, ‘We’ll have to tie his legs and winch him into the trailer’,” said Devlin, who added, “the horse must have heard this, because he got up after that. They led him into the trailer and took him away.” Devlin added that the horse carriage driver appeared to “bless himself” near the horse before taking the carriage away himself, with the nearby crowd chanting “How does it feel?!”
New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets (NYCLASS) — an advocacy group against horse carriages — has already responded to the incident, demanding that the City Council move to ban the practice.
Queens council member Robert Holden has introduced legislation proposing to replace horse-drawn carriages with electric vehicles by June of 2024. District 3 City Council Member Erik Bottcher, in conjunction with Joann Ariola (Queens), Tiffany Caban (Queens), Shahana Hanif (Brooklyn), Kristen Richardson Jordan (Manhattan), Rita Joseph (Brooklyn), Christopher Marte (Manhattan), Chi Osse (Brooklyn) and Keith Powers (Manhattan) have signed onto the bill.
Council Member Holden told 1010 WINS: “The time has come. This is the 21st Century. We shouldn’t have horses serving man for our pleasure.”
A campaign promise made by previous New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2013 included similar proposals to ban carriage horses. It did not pass, though de Blasio did push through the 2019 Carriage Horse Heat Relief Bill.
The carriage drivers, represented by the Transport Workers Union (TWU), have pushed back against the ban, saying the horses are cared for with rigorous standards that are “the strictest carriage regulations in the country”. TWU President Tony Utano said in a statement: “This is about real estate, not horses. NYCLASS was founded by developers, and developers would love to put high-rises and hotels where the privately owned stables are located. It’s unfortunate that some Council members who have signed on to this bill have not even bothered to contact the drivers’ union to get labor’s view.”
Utano went on to argue that the horses receive top-notch care and are a more sustainable addition than cars to the pathways of Central Park. “The horses receive physical exams by horse veterinarians two to four times a year; regular dental care; vaccinations; regular hoof trimming; and new shoes every four to six weeks. They have comfortable and clean stalls, spend their days in the 843-acre park – and get at least five weeks’ vacation on farms every year (many spend several months on farms). It took many years of hard work to get cars out of Central Park. Nobody – except those with a financial interest – wants motorized vehicles to return,” he added.
In response to the latest statement from NYCLASS, District 3 City Council Member Erik Bottcher tweeted: “The current laws to protect these horses aren’t working. I’m a proud co-sponsor of Intro 573, which would end this practice.”
UPDATE: The NYPD sent W42ST the following statement: “On Wednesday, August 10, 2022 at approximately 1704 hours, police responded to a 911 call of a collapsed carriage horse at the intersection of W45th Street and 9th Avenue. Upon arrival, patrol officers observed a carriage horse lying in the middle of the roadway in distress. NYPD Mounted officers responded to the scene and were able to offer temporary aid to the horse by hosing it down to help it cool off. The horse was removed to a private horse stable in W38th Street and 10th Avenue, where it is conscious and awaiting proper veterinary care.”
TWU Local 100 President Tony Utano sent W42ST the following statement: “We thank everyone for their concern about Ryder, one of the beloved Central Park carriage horses. The veterinarian believes Ryder has EPM, a neurological disease caused by possum droppings. This is another example why people shouldn’t rush to judgement about our horses or the blue-collar men and women who choose to work with them and care for them. Sadly, horses — like people — can get sick.”