1935-1955 – Only 15 horse draw-drawn carriages operated in New York City in 1935.  Drivers stayed (by choice) mostly within Central Park due to the danger of increasing motorized traffic.  During World War II, the number of carriages increased due to gas rationing, vastly reduced traffic and the need for non-motorized transportation (outside the Park).  After the War, they returned to the Park, but a number of new drivers remained, and the competition for fares increased.  In the late 1940’s and early 50’s (records are lost), under Mayor William O’Dwyer, NYC decided to sell 68 medallions (carriage licenses) to carriage operators, but no laws existed to regulate carriages or protect horses.  Note:  NYC is the only city that has sold (rather than leased) licensed to carriage owners – a root cause of the current problem.  These licenses were purchased for $100 to $200 each by two stable owners. 

1960-1980 – These licensed owners began selling their excess licenses at a profit, adding to the competition for fares.  Carriages were seen more frequently outside Central Park.  Accidents and abuse were becoming very noticeable, and the public was objecting.  In the 70’s, there was an effort led by actress Gretchen Wyler and the late radio talk show host, Pegeen Fitzgerald to curb the abuse through legislation.  This failed.  Tom Manton (Woodside, Queens), who was a NYC Council Member and the Democratic Boss of Queens at this time, headed the law firm, Manton, Pennisi, Dowd & Harris, which represented the carriage industry.  Mayor Ed Koch, elected in 1978, was heavily dependent on Queens’ votes (determined by Manton’s support), and discouraged any legislation restricting carriages or protecting horses. 

1981-1985 In July of 1981, a pathetically minimal law, Local Law 4 – “The Horse Licensing & Protection Law,” was finally enacted calling for licensing of horses, a workday of no more than 10 hours and the establishment of an advisory board to oversee carriage related problems.  This law was bitterly fought by carriage operators, whose numbers now totaled 141.  The Advisory Board was not appointed until after July of 1982, when three horses dropped dead on NYC streets in one day, followed by a fourth a few weeks later.  It met only once, with no results.  In July of 1983, Council Member Bob Dryfoos introduced a bill to restrict carriages entirely to Central Park.  Koch countered with a bill to restrict carriages from Midtown for only four hours per day.  Neither bill emerged from Committee.  In 1985, a horse was killed by a limousine in Midtown (four passengers were injured).  Carriages licenses were now transferring for $40,000 and up. 

1986-1988 In January of 1986, Tom Manton, newly elected to Congress, dissolved his law firm, and Walter McCaffrey, his hand picked replacement, was seated on the City Council and assigned to the Transportation Committee (where most carriage legislation is heard).  A war was raging between members from Queens, the Bronx & Staten Island and those from Manhattan & Brooklyn to win the powerful Majority Leader (now “Speaker”) seat.  Bob Dryfoos, in a last minute switch, cast the swing vote putting Peter Vallone (Queens) in the seat of power.  In April of 1986, the Carriage Horse Action Committee was formed to help move the Dryfoos bill, however, it quickly became clear that Koch would never allow the Dryfoos bill to materialize.  CHAC decided to push for a compromise of the existing two bills, and worked with Dryfoos in drafting it.  On May 10, 1988, the new Dryfoos bill was introduced.  In August, one horse – Misty – died of heat stroke, followed one week later by the collapse of Whitey who fought for two and one half hours to gain his feet on NYC’s 200 degree + pavement.  This was telecast the world over.  Koch proposed putting hats on horses to prevent heat stroke.  The media, pressed by an angry public, kept the issue alive.  In December, Dr. Holly Cheever, CHAC’s equine veterinary advisor began her inspections of stables in conjunction with the ASPCA’s law-enforcement arm and issued revealing reports.  The New York Times published segments of one of her reports, adding to the public anger.

1989 – A carriage license transferred for $180,000.  On May 31, the Dryfoos bill hearings began, marked by carriage driver riots, damage to City Hall property and physical threats against the bill’s advocates.  This action succeeded in heavily compromising the bill.  With Vallone’s support, it was voted out of Committee (6 to 1) over McCaffrey’s strong objection.  Unknown to CHAC, a four year expiration date had been tacked onto the bill.  On September 7, the 35-member Council accepted the bill by a vote of 31 to 3.  That very evening, Tom Manton switched his backing (in the mayoral race) from Ravitch to Koch.  Two days later, Koch arrived at a political rally in Woodside in a horse-drawn carriage, driven by the bill’s main adversary, and on October 6, Koch vetoed the bill, after his hearing at which Manton’s former law partner, Albert Pennisi, argued the case against the bill.  Koch lost the election to Dinkins, (who had spoken out in favor of the bill).  On November 21, Local Law 89 was enacted by an historic (the first time in 20 years) mayoral veto override.  McCaffrey, Noach Deer and Mary Pinkett voted against.  Peter Vallone gave an eloquent speech on the floor, quoting Gandhi – “The worth of a nation is measured by the way it treats its animals.”  Carriage operators immediately sued the City for the passage of the law and a few weeks later …

1990On January 2, carriage operators sued CHAC, Peggy Parker, Dr. Cheever and the ASPCA and its president, John Kuhlberg, for $415,000, apparently in an attempt to stop CHAC’s planned legislation mandating humane stables and horse care.  CHAC gained the pro bono representation of Withrop, Stimson, but the suit had a negative effect on CHAC’s pursuit of humane stables, as it dragged into 1991.  Enforcement of LL 89 was badly lacking. 

1991 – John Kuhlberg resigned as President of the ASPCA.  His interim replacement refused to allow Dr. Cheever to continue her evaluation of the stables.  No information was forthcoming from the ASPCA concerning stable conditions, abuse or accidents.  There was a new policy at the ASPCA – avoid lawsuits.  Bob Dryfoos came under attack for alleged misuse of campaign funds, and decided not to seek another term.  In August, two horses collapsed and died (of “colic” or “tying up syndrome”) within one week of each other.  In November of 1991, the carriage industry lawsuit against the City was dismissed.  Dear and McCaffrey, anticipating Dryfoos’ departure, gained the necessary signatures (8) on a resolution calling for an oversight hearing examining “the economic impact of LL89 on the carriage industry.”  The intent was obvious.

1992 – In January of 1992, Dryfoos departed, and the Council expanded to 51 members.  Vallone appointed Dear Transportation Chair.  Dear immediately called for the oversight hearing, (February 13).  In the kangaroo court that followed, the Health Dept. (Martin Kurtz) issued a glowing “stable inspection” report.  The ASPCA, which had received a copy of this report weeks earlier, did nothing to challenge what was obviously a set up inspection with two weeks notice.  With no current access to the stables, and no information from the ASPCA as to conditions, CHAC could not refute the “report” with any accuracy.  Although in March, the lawsuit against CHAC and the ASPCA was unanimously dismissed by the Appellate Court, and council members were made aware that this suit had no basis in fact, and although the carriage industry claimed drastic loss of business due to LL 89, passed full Council vote (32-18).  At the Dinkins’ hearing, May 29, 1992, the Emerald Isle Immigration Center, for the first time, revealed its interest in the issue, angrily calling for passing of the bill, but Dinkins vetoed as promised.  Oddly, a horse was hit by a cab on that very day.

NOTE:  During the critical period of one full year, 3/1/92 to 2/28/93, there apparently were no ASPCA inspections of stables, and no horses were reported abused in any manner, badly hindering CHAC’s efforts.  The reason given, “The ASPCA’s agents aren’t humane officers or veterinarians.”

1993 – Vallone refused to allow LL 89 replacement legislation to be heard before LL 89 was due to expire.  In the summer of 1993, carriage operators hired costly super-lobbyist Mel Miller, (former Speaker of the State Assembly), partner of Norman Adler, who was Vallone’s political advisor, and was also on Dear’s payroll.  The ASPCA President began meeting with Vallone.  Vallone’s approval would be necessary for the City purchase of the $5 million, faulty ASPCA shelter that they were looking to unload as they gave up the animal control contract.  In October, CHAC received assurance that mayoral candidate Giuliani would support LL 89.  Vallone extended LL89 by 40 days, and allowed introduction of replacement legislation.

On November 16, Dear held the first hearing on this bill, Int. 805, (another assault on LL89, but more restrictive than his 1992 bill) and Council Member Kathryn Freed’s bill, Int. 811, a permanent extension of LL 89.  Every major voice in the City strongly objected to the Dear bill.  It was revealed that driver registration had risen to 396 (for 68 carriages and 135 horses) and Dear wanted to do away with the training course to allow free driver registration on demand.  The ASPCA opposed Deer’s bill, but gain, gave no evidence of abuse in the stables or on the street.  Vallone drafted a slightly kinder version, met with business leaders, offered a few appeasement amendments, and told them that “humane concerns” should not be included in their consideration.  On December 16, prior to the scheduled Council meeting, Vallone met with council members telling them he wanted the bill passed.  Later that day, it passed the full Council vote, with 17 brave no votes.  The ASPCA reversed its position and faxed Dinkins asking him to sign the bill, but all other major local, state and national humane organizations and The American Horse Shows Association joined CHAC in its request to veto.  On December 29, Dinkins again vetoed.  LL expired on December 31, leaving no law in place.  David Dinkins lost the mayoral election to Rudolph Giuliani and left office December 31.

1994 On January 7, Vallone convinced Mayor Giuliani, to sign the bill, but with “amendment.”  Vallone used the ASPCA’s acceptance of Dear’s bill, and the “immediate need” for a law to convince Giuliani.  (His plan worked) The very next day, another horse was struck by a car, and yet another escaped onto the West Side Highway, heading out of town with carriage following.  With frills masquerading as amendments, the bill breezed through Committee and Council votes, as many members were told by McCaffrey that the new “amendments” were approved by the ASPCA.  After the Council vote on February 28, carriage drivers openly praised Congressman Thomas Manton for using his clout on their behalf.  At the Mayor’s hearing of March 14, Giuliani twice asked the ASPCA spokesperson if the ASPCA wanted him to veto the Dear bill.  Twice the spokesperson said no.  Giuliani signed the bill.  Three days later, Manton was leading the St. Patrick’s Day parade as Grand Marshall.  Local Law 2 had no expiration date.  Peter Vallone plans to run for higher office, and might need help from Queens.

On April 21, 1994, around 4:30 PM, a horse collapsed in Central Park and was later euthanized.  Three observers said the horse had been hit by a cab, but at this writing the diagnosis is “colic” or “tying up syndrome.”  The horse was led to grass to soften his agonized final hours.  One can only wonder if this were the first time his hooves were allowed to meet grass since he had the misfortune to be condemned to forever plod the concrete canyons of New York City.

1994-2006 - No more was officially heard from the Carriage Horse Action Committee.  Accidents continued to happen, but the industry remained unchallenged.   Various protests continued in response to accidents and deaths.  In 2000, the ASPCA introduced a bill that would keep the horses in the Park.  It included consideration for humidity index and wind chill.  Short of banning the industry, it was a good bill and would have done a lot to help the horses.  However, no one on the City Council, which was still headed by Speaker Peter Vallone, would sponsor the bill.  It died on the ASPCA’s web site.

In 2006,  Spotty, a five year old gelding, was involved in a tragic accident in mid town, which resulted in his death.  This proved to be the deciding factor in turning public opinion in the direction of a ban.  The animal protection community came together to form the Coalition to Ban Horse Drawn Carriages and drafted legislation that would do the same.  The Coalition is looking for a courageous Council Member to sponsor the bill. 

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