Movie actor, Liam Neeson, is a strong proponent of New York City’s carriage horses, fighting to preserve the tradition for residents and tourists alike. The industry has been around for decades, a quaint, old-fashioned reminder of earlier times. Many visitors to New York, as well as locals, look forward to that famous horse-drawn carriage ride through Central Park. With the mayor threatening to close down the carriage business, support abounded this weekend to keep the horses of Central Park, and around the city, working, as Neeson addressed a crowd of two hundred people.
New York Mayor, Bill de Blasio, along with other city council members, wants to prohibit the long-held tradition of the carriage horse, stating as a reason that the horses are not treated well. Disagreeing with that assessment and hoping to preserve this carriage horse tradition in the Big Apple, Liam Neeson stated, not only does this special characteristic of New York supply jobs to hundreds of people who might otherwise be unemployed, it keeps a popular tradition alive and makes people happy.
To show Mayor de Blasio that the horses were not poorly treated, the actor invited him to take a tour of the stables so he could see for himself the conditions in which the animals are kept. De Blasio had to decline, but all 51 members of the City Council joined him on a tour of the Manhattan horse stable as a way to rally reinforcements for a worthy cause, which is to save the city’s horse carriage industry. To demonstrate precisely what kind of treatment the horses receive, the tour joined the carriage drivers and the caretakers of the horses at the stable of Clinton Park, where he continued talking to the crowd.
Speaking forcefully, Mr. Neeson addressed the City Council members, as well as the crowds that had gathered. “These horses are well cared for,” he stated. He added that it’s about connecting to the past and maintaining that bond with New York’s history. And most obvious — he referred to the great white elephant in the room, “four prime locations on the West Side of New York that realtors must be salivating to get their hands on.”
Neeson continued, showing the crowd where 78 carriage horses slept every night, and the mayor’s comment that he wants to replace them with electric cars. “That’s exactly what New York needs, more cars!” He pointed out that electric cars were tried in San Francisco, but failed dismally. Neeson was clearly disappointed, and angry, that the mayor had not joined them to see for himself that the horses are treated humanely.
The mayor’s plan is to ban the horse carriage industry completely, and according to Mayor de Blasio, “I’m firm about the fact that we have to make this move.” He continued in defense of his choice, stating that the reason he wants to visit the stables when time allows, is so that he can begin working with the people who drive the carriages. He hopes to find them new jobs in similar fields of work. He stated he is firm with their direction, but that he was also open-minded, “I’m not looking to put 350 families out on the street.” More reflectively, he admitted to the crowd that he used to like seeing the carriage horses around New York, then one day, it just did not feel right anymore, adding that many other cities around the world have banned horse carriages also.
NYCLASS is the group behind the push to end the carriage industry in the city. In a statement to the crowd, the spokesman for the group said, “The stables’ conditions are not the primary reason to ban the carriages. It is the inhumanity of the horses working in dangerous midtown traffic.” He went on to say that horses can be spooked unexpectedly, and forcing them to work in noisy, congested traffic is unkind and not safe.
Republican Minority Leader Vincent Ignizio, who also visited the stables said he was not sure which way to go, but noted the horses seemed calm and well adjusted. He made the statement that if there were valid issues threatening the safety of the animals, then there could be a compromise plan. With that kind of thinking, Neeson’s fight to preserve the horse carriage tradition in NYC has a chance to prevail.
By Christine Schlichte