New York mayor says nay to horse carriages

New York mayor says nay to horse carriages
The horses who draw the carriages in New York City work on congested and polluted roads, which some say is inhumane.

NEW YORK - Many cities in the United States have quintessential sights and sounds: San Francisco's clanging cable cars, New Orleans and its raucous Mardi Gras, and Washington's political mudslinging.

New York has an abundance of them too, and the new mayor has ignited a firestorm by announcing plans to nix one that is a century old - the horse-drawn carriages in Central Park - calling them inhumane.

In their place, if he gets his way, get ready to kick back in electric cars.

"We are going to get rid of the horse carriages. Period," Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio said in December, one month after being elected.

"We are going to quickly and aggressively move to make horse carriages no longer a part of the landscape in New York City. They are not humane. They are not appropriate to the year 2014. It's over."

This month, he hammered away further, calling his idea non-negotiable.

He did, however, promise to discuss things with the people who make a living from this very Big Apple tourist attraction, which involves 220 horses, 170 drivers and 68 carriages.

NYClass is one of the groups pressing to get rid of the carriages.

"New York is one of the most congested cities in the entire world. These horses are working in midtown traffic with their noses against the tail pipes," said the group's Chelsie Schadt.

"Horses don't belong in traffic," she added.

NYClass wants to replace the carriages with electric-powered copies of early 20th century cars to offer that same "nostalgic feel". The horses would be retired to "sanctuaries" and looked after by the people who drove the carriages, calling this a very fair alternative.

The first prototype of the cars, at a cost of US$450,000 (S$570,000), could be ready in the spring.

The project needs the approval of the city council but is not yet on the agenda. The carriages would be phased out and the electric cars phased in over a period of three years.

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