Horse and Carriage Controversy Threatens Small Carriage Owners

Horse and Carriage Controversy Threatens Small Carriage Owners

A controversy in New York City is pitting small carriage owners against the city and more specifically, newly elected Mayor Bill de Blasio. De Blasio has vowed to eliminate horse drawn carriages in Central Park, a long tradition and an ecosystem supporting many small business owners including owners of the carriages, horses and stables. But for the moment, city council seems to have stopped the mayor in his tracks and the issue has yet to even make it to the council’s agenda.

Opponents of the carriage rides, including animal rights groups, insist the horse and carriage trade is bad for the animals. They say the horses are denied proper pasture, are exposed to exhaust fumes and are over worked, Treehugger reports.

But Stephen Malone, spokesman of the Horse and Carriage Association of New York says the carriage trade has supported many horse and carriage and stable owners down through the years. In a CNN editorial he writes:

“My father stumbled upon the horse and carriages on Central Park South and hit the jackpot. He was a third-generation blacksmith and went to work immediately as the stable hand and blacksmith to the carriage trade. He would work all day, fixing problems with the carriages and then shoeing horses.

The stable owner allowed him to drive a carriage on weekends to earn extra pay. He worked like this until 1967, when he purchased his first carriage. This is the origin of my family tradition. The horse and carriages have put the bread and butter on my family’s table since 1967 and I intend on keeping it that way for years to come.”

What’s more, those in New York’s horse and carriage industry insist charges that horses are being cruelly treated are wrong. And even Treehugger admitted in an earlier post that charges of neglect or abuse seem unwarranted.

The mayor has proposed replacing the horses with environmentally friendly “vintage” style electric cars and offering them first to former carriage owners as compensation for a ban. But no one can imagine tourists paying $50 for 20 minutes or $130 for an hour to ride in a car in New York City.

But it’s more than just the livelihood of so many small carriage, horse and stable owners that’s at stake. The industry employs 300 people and generates about $19 million annually for the city’s economy.

Like so many other small business owners, those involved in the horse and carriage trade have added substantially to the fabric of their community. Defenders of these business people say the proposed ban isn’t about the welfare of the animals. It’s about politics and influential animal rights activists who contributed to de Blasio’s campaign.

They have vowed to fight city hall to preserve businesses that continue to thrive in New York City that they believe make their community a better place.

Carriage Photo via Shutterstock


Joshua Sophy Joshua Sophy is the Editor for Small Business Trends and the Head of Content Partnerships. A journalist with 20 years of experience in traditional and online media, he is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. He founded his own local newspaper, the Pottsville Free Press, covering his hometown.

5 Reactions
  1. Joshua Sophy:

    – there may be 300 or so people who have licenses but many are part time, live in other cities and countries – and manage their medallions from afar. Even Steve Malone admits to there being about 150 people in the business who are making their living from it.
    – It is not known how much the carriage trade contributes to the NYC tax base because it is made up of many different businesses that are cash only. The number you quote is pure fabrication and was an ESTIMATE created by NY Class when they tried to compare the carriages with electric cars. Think “cash only” and then tell me how much these owners declare on their income tax and that goes into the tax coffers of NYC.
    – The City Council has not “stopped” the mayor in his tracks. Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito is committed to a ban of this inhumane and unsafe business. This takes time and must be done right.
    – Why is this tiny group of people more worthy of keeping their jobs than any other group of people who have lost theirs due to gentrification of neighborhoods or their businesses being obsolete – as this one is. Explain please. I am sure many unemployed people would love to hear this one.
    – Finally the City of New York no longer wants to be a patsy to this tiny trade They will no longer subsidize a stable as they did with Shamrock Stable that closed in 2010. The City charged them $5000 a month rent when the market rate was $60,000. The City also picked up the tab to outfit the stable to the tune of $500,000. You say your publication is about small business. How many small businesses do you know that was on the City dole for years and years?
    – We have suggested retrofitted carriages – the type that is shown here: How many other small businesses get something handed them on a platter. Most people have to recreate themselves or stump the pavement looking for another job.

    [Edited by Editor to remove personal comments]

    Our organization began this campaign in 2006. We are all volunteer and have no conflicts of interest.

    This is a link to a letter recently published

    Elizabeth Forel
    Coalitio to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages

  2. Frederick P. Certano

    I am all for animal rights, but really is this a top priority? Aren’t there a lot more abuses on big factory farms and “feed lots” where they could make a real difference? Step back and look at this? The Mayor of NYC has nothing better to do??? You have to be kidding me. Politics at its worst! You wonder why our country is in the shape it’s in? Well, here is a great example. Answer “fire them” until we get somebody who works for a government “of, by and for the people.”

  3. Thank you very much for your comments, Elizabeth. I certainly understand your strong feelings against horse-drawn carriages.

    Our article was never intended to single out one industry over another. Rather, here’s a story about one particular industry that’s made up of a lot of small businesses and some full- and part-time workers that’s on the brink.

    Is it time for horse-drawn carriage rides in New York to come to a close? I’m not sure and I’m not sure that was the debate here.

    You’re exactly right, though, a lot of us are not so lucky as to have an alternative to our business offered to us like that. However, that may only benefit the business owner and not the employees.

    Thanks again for your comments.

  4. I would investigate the trustees and names signed off with NYC Class. Chronicle of the horse forums listed names in 2012 on this issue. Rather shocking – almost all were real estate associated, as is Steve Nislick.

    IMO, this has NOTHING to do with horse welfare. Everything to do with real estate, money and yep, you can connect the dots on the busiesses promoting the electronic cars. IMO, the carriage horses have issues as does the eventing horse scene and uber expensieve horse show scene Mr. Nisllick frequents. They have many cases of crippled and drugged horses yet charge 4- figures in many cases to promote/attemd their horse shows. Yet, I don’t see the word BAN in regards to them. At least not until the real estate they on becomes wanted.