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NYC carriage drivers must move into Central Park, judge rules

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Carriage drivers are set to reargue their case against the change in early March

A horse-drawn carriage in Central Park.
Stan Honda/Getty Images

A judge wants carriage drivers to hold their horses—in Central Park.

Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron ruled in favor of a proposal by the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) to move horse-drawn carriage pickups from Central Park South into three park entrances.

The new rule, which will dramatically alter how the carriage industry operates in and around the park, took effect Friday against objections from carriage drivers who argue that the move is beyond the de Blasio administration’s regulatory authority and sued to keep the horses on the park-adjacent streets. But Engoron dismissed the argument and affirmed the DOT’s power to regulate the roads.

“This explicit grant of authority to DOT, viewed in connecting with DOT’s stated intent of mitigating the amount of time horses spend mingling with, and presumably impeding traffic, renders its proposed rule beyond judicial reproach or second guessing,” Engoron wrote in his decision.

The new rule went into effect Friday and says drivers can only pick up and drop off passengers inside the park at the Seventh Avenue, Sixth Avenue, and Grand Army Plaza entrances. But carriages won’t officially operate under the new rule until the end of February due to the need to construct new facilities, according to NYC Parks.

DOT is in the midst of constructing three pickup locations inside the park entrances. In the meantime, carriage drivers have filed a motion to reargue their case—two lawsuits against the proposal were dismissed last week—and have a court date set for March 1, according to carriage industry spokesperson Christina Hansen.

“This rule was designed by people who know nothing about horses,” said Hansen, whose driven a horse-drawn carriage in New York for the last seven years. “They want to take an entire herd of horses, who are happy and comfortable on Central Park South, and put them inside the park in places where it’s not safe to stand.”

Hansen argues the new pickup locations won’t be able to comfortably fit 68 standing carriages and contends that the Seventh Avenue spot would force horses to stand on a downward incline.

“While there remains a dispute over whether this proposed rule will best serve the health and well-being of the horses, such dispute is immaterial to this proceeding,” Engoron’s decision continued.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has waged war on the horse carriage industry since his mayoral run in 2013 and vowed to ban the carriages on day one of his administration if elected. But that was easier said than done. A ban went nowhere with the New York City Council, instead the de Blasio administration has turned to rule changes to push the carriages into the park.

Animal rights group New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets (NYCLASS), which has lobbied the city to ban horse carriages, praised the judge’s ruling as a win for the industry’s horses and the city.

“By shifting the hackline locations into the shaded entrances of Central Park, carriage horses will be subject to less heat and humidity throughout the summer and will no longer have to contend with cars and their exhaust traveling right next to them,” NYCLASS Executive Director Edita Birnkrant said in a statement.