City Could Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages as Soon as May 2016

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Jesse Dittmar for the Voice
New details are leaking out about the rumored bill to ban carriage horses in Central Park. According to an advocate who has communicated with the mayor's administration throughout the drafting process, the bill will be introduced as soon as Monday by City Councilmember Daniel Dromm. It will propose sunsetting horse-drawn carriages by May 31, 2016, when the last of the carriage operator licenses are set to expire. (A spokeswoman for the councilman confirmed the report to the Voice.)

See Also: Bill de Blasio's Pledge to Abolish Horse-Drawn Carriages is Running Away From Him

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A Carriage Horse Named Pumpkin Did a Panicked Solo Lap Around Central Park Last Night

Image via NYCLASS
The dented cab door.
In yet another incident for animal rights groups and horse-drawn carriage advocates to argue about, a carriage horse named Pumpkin got free of his bridle last night around 5:45 p.m. as he stood at the hack line at 59th Street. The horse, still pulling his carriage, ran into Central Park, leaving his driver behind.

The horse proceeded to run through his usual route along the park's paths. At one point, according to NBC, a bicyclist jumped into the driver's seat to try to stop him. Instead, Pumpkin sped up, eventually re-emerging onto 59th Street and then crashing his carriage into a cab door on Central Park South. A group of carriage drivers corralled the horse and took him back to his stables, where carriage driver and industry spokesperson Christina Hansen says he was examined and found to be unharmed. No one else was injured, except for the door of that cab.

Several people witnessed the incident, including, weirdly, Mets outfielder Matt den Dekker, who tweeted this:

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NYCLASS and PETA Demand Apology After Re-Releasing 2009 Video of Carriage Driver Calling Protester a Whore

A still from the video.
The two most prominent animal rights groups pushing for a ban on horse-drawn carriages in New York City are holding a press conference today, calling for an apology from a carriage driver who they say hurled "racist, sexist hate speech in Spanish at a Latina who merely expressed concern for his horse." According to a release, New York City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez will join members of NYCLASS and PETA, the animal rights groups, on the steps of City Hall today at 1 p.m., asking the City Council to "demand a public apology from the carriage industry."

Their press release doesn't mention, however, that the incident they're referring to, between the carriage driver, who NYCLASS and PETA identify as Frank Rodden, and an anti-carriage protester named Claudia Rose Emerson, took place in 2009. The 45-second clip released by PETA earlier this week is part of a five-minute video released in 2009 by a group called Heart for Animal Rights.

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Here's the Liam Neeson-Narrated Short Film About Carriage Horses

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A still from the movie's opening credits.
In case you're keeping score or even still paying attention, there has been exactly no progress on New York City's carriage horse debate. Mayor Bill de Blasio has reasserted his commitment to banning the industry, but says the matter won't come to a City Council vote until sometime later this year. That leaves plenty of time for both sides to churn out screeds denouncing one another: the Daily News runs a new pro-carriage horse piece every couple days, while NYCLASS, the lead animal rights group behind the proposed ban, continues to try to generate excitement for their horseless e-carriage.

The latest skirmish happened last night, when the carriage horse industry debuted a short film called "Save the NYC Carriage Horses" at the Kraine Theater in the Bowery. The movie is narrated by Liam Neeson. Try to guess what the thesis is.

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Animal Rights Groups Plan Protest At Stables After Carriage Driver Is Accused of Horse Switch

Photo by Jesse Dittmar
The interior of the Clinton Park Stables.
If you haven't quite gotten your fill of carriage horse-arguing, today's your lucky day. Last week, the Associated Press reported that carriage driver Frank Luo is accused by the city's health department of falsifying the brand on one of his horses. Today, in what promises to be an unpleasant situation on all sides, two animal rights groups, NYCLASS and PETA, will protest in front of the Clinton Park Stables on West 52nd Street, where the horse in question used to live.

Luo supposedly took a 22-year-old draft horse named Caesar and branded the number of a 12-year-old horse, Carsen, onto his hoof. Caesar suffered from heaves, a chronic lung disease, and was supposed to be resting on a Pennsylvania farm. City health officials accused Luo of misbranding Ceasar so he could continue to work him. But Luo told the Associated Press that the whole thing was a mistake on the vet's part, saying, "I did not switch the horses. It's just very confusing because they look alike."

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Protest Planned After a Carriage Horse Named Spartacus Fell Near the Plaza Hotel [Updated]

Image via NYCLASS
The two sides of the carriage horse debate are arguing furiously this morning, after a horse named Spartacus toppled over near the hack line at Central Park yesterday. Predictably, neither side can agree on what happened: the anti-carriage, pro- animal rights groups, including NYCLASS and Friends of Animals, say the horse spooked after a bus got too close while making a turn. But a spokeswoman for the carriage industry who was present during the incident says the horse simply got tangled with another carriage, and was soon back on his feet and heading for home, where he was examined by a veterinarian and found to be unharmed.

The photo above is being distributed by NYCLASS, who posted it on their Facebook page last night. They're calling for an emergency protest and press conference at 1 p.m. today at 59th St and 5th Ave, near the hack line, where the incident took place.

Friends of Animals New York director Edita Birnkrant says the incident highlights the need to push a ban bill quickly through the City Council: "Had there been passengers in that carriage when the horse spooked and it fell over, they could have been badly injured."

But Christina Hansen, a carriage driver and spokeswoman for the Horse and Carriage Association of New York, an industry group, says that while Spartacus did trip, he was quickly helped up by a team of drivers and sent home to his stable. She also sent the Voice of a photo of Spartacus, standing in his stall this morning, "happy and unharmed," she says.

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In Carriage Horse Fight, the Daily News Is Really Having Trouble Keeping Fact and Opinion Separate [Updated]

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A model of NYCLASS's proposed electric car.
On April 16, the New York Daily News announced they were wading into the carriage horse fight full-force, "launching a campaign to save the city's beloved carriage horses," as an editorial published that day put it. They've begun circulating a petition online and in print, calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio to leave the horses alone and criticizing animal rights group NYCLASS's proposal to replace the horses with vintage-replica electric cars.

At the same time, News reporters are also continuing to cover the carriage horse debate that the opinion page has now inserted themselves into. That's leading to some awkward conflicts of interest. In a statement released earlier this week, NYCLASS says that a Daily News reporter who assured them she was interviewing them for a feature story instead improperly gave her reporting materials to the opinion page, for use in an unflattering editorial.

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A Chat With Norm Augustinus, the Guy Holding the "Die de Blasio Die" Banner at Columbus Circle [Updated]

Photo by Reddit user Livings124

The carriage-horse debate has gotten rather heated lately, with animal rights activists and the de Blasio administration saying it's time for the practice to end, and carriage drivers, the Teamsters and Liam Neeson saying a ban on carriage horses will send the drivers into unemployment and the horses somewhere unpleasant. (NYCLASS, the main group pushing for a ban, says the horses can be saved from slaughter and sent to ASPCA-approved adoptive homes, if their owners will agree.)

A couple weeks ago, eccentric comedian and satirist Norm Augustinus decided to wade into the debate, with that eye-catching banner you see above. To answer all of your immediate questions: It's hyperbole, not an actual death threat, but Augustinus does really want the horses to stay. And yes, the NYPD has already been out talk to him.

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Small Crowd Rallies on Central Park South to Draw Tourist Support on a Horse Carriage Ban

Michelle D. Anderson
Donny Moss, documentary filmmaker, and Elizabeth Forel, president of CBHDC

Targeting tourists and New York residents, a group of horse advocates and animal-rights activists sought to bring awareness to and gain support for a citywide ban on horse-drawn carriages yesterday.

The group, the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages, hosted a rally and "hotel crawl" in response to three carriage horse accidents that occurred between Oct. 23 and Nov. 4. Yesterday we wrote about the group and its ongoing efforts to get the city to ban horse-drawn carriages, which it says are unsafe and inhumane, despite carriage operators who say the horses are treated well and politicians who say the carriages contribute to the city's culture and tourism industry.

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The Horse-Drawn Carriage Debate Continues; Local Groups and Celebrities Call for a Ban

Michelle D. Anderson
The effort to ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City rages on.

Another report of a carriage horse collapse in a two-week span has left animal-rights advocates -- including celebrities such as Glee's Lea Michele and Pamela Anderson -- with a renewed passion to end the use of horse-drawn carriages.

Today the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages (CBHDC) will hold a rally and tourist-hotel crawl on Central Park South at 6:30 p.m.

According to Elizabeth Forel, CBHDC's president since the group's inception in 2006, the latest horse collapse, which occurred Friday, is not the second in two weeks but rather the third. Forel tells us that on Oct. 28, a horse bucked and nearly hit several taxis after racing along 59th Street.

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