NEW YORK, N.Y. — New rules that change where the New York City carriage horses may wait for customers has been adopted by the New York City Department of Transportation.
A motion in a lawsuit that was filed before the rule was even adopted, is also set to be argued in court on Jan. 8.
Based on comments received during a public hearing on Oct. 3, some changes to the rule were made. The final rule was published in The City Record on Jan. 4.
The horses currently line up on Central Park South just outside of Central Park.The new rule which is to be effective on Feb. 15 would move them inside the park to wait between rides. The exact locations were modified from the original proposal.
According to a complaint filed in New York State Supreme Court by Attorney Angelo A. DiGangi on behalf of Giovanni Paliotta, who owns a carriage business, and those similarly situated — the rule change is a “power grab” by the defendants whose intent is to put the carriage horses out of business. Mayor DeBlasio, the NYDOT, the animal rights group New Yorkers for Clean, Livable & Safe Streets, Inc. (NYCLASS), several individuals and city departments are named as defendants but in December, the suit was discontinued against NYCLASS and on individual, according to court filings.
According to the complaint, the DOT had not identified any carriage horse issue as critical and thus it was not placed on the department’s regulatory agenda for the fiscal year. There was no explanation offered regarding any new danger and in fact there were fewer traffic accidents where the horses wait than on similar streets without horse presence, according to the complaint.
“There is no rational basis to support the proposal,” the complaint said, “The horses cause no traffic danger, rather their presence has been said to tame the pace of traffic, thereby making the streets safer.”
An amended complaint claims the city did not follow proper procedure when proposing the rule including failing to provide adequate notice and failing to do research. It also seeks $10 million in damages for the plaintiffs.
A temporary injunction was granted on Oct. 18 by the state Supreme Court to prevent the changes from taking effect until 10 days after the final rule was adopted and published, and the plaintiff had been notified.
Since the rule had not been adopted, a court hearing was adjourned twice and is now scheduled for Jan. 8 in New York City Supreme Court.
On his inauguration day on Jan. 1, 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed to immediately ban the carriages but five years later the carriages are still rolling.
The horse drawn carriages have long been targeted by animal rights activists who have been trying to shut them down for many years. The activists claim the business is inhumane, claiming the city is to stressful of a place for horses.
An outright ban of the industry previously failed to get enough support in City Council. A proposal to build a stable within Central Park also failed.
Previously, dozens of equine veterinarians and equine professionals have vouched for the care and health of the carriage horses. A study conducted by Western University of Health Sciences in 2014 showed that the horses are not stressed by being in the city. Results of the study, "Evaluation of well-being of New York City carriage horses," were presented at the Annual Convention of the American Association of Equine Practitioners.
New York City has perhaps the strictest regulations in the nation regarding carriages. Each horse must receive a minimum of five weeks annual vacation, and cannot work in temperatures above 90 degrees or below 18 degrees. They have to be examined by a vet when they leave and return to the city. The horses also have a retirement program through Blue Star Equiculture in Massachusetts.
There have been as many as 220 horses registered to work in New York with about a third of those on furlough outside of the city at any given time. The working horses currently live in privately owned stables on Manhattan's West Side. One stable recently closed.
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