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Letters & Editorials

The Worm and the Apple; Super Scoopers

August 15, 1989

A Welcome Step in the Park

Central Park last weekend was steamy and sticky - but not smelly, which
testifies to a small triumph for the quality of life. New York, the city
that dared to attack the problem of what dogs do, has now found an
effective way to deal with what's left behind by horses.

That's an accomplishment for which the city Parks Commissioner, Henry
Stern, and the carriage horse owners deserve apples of appreciation.
Until last month the 68 carriage horses that regularly travel through the
park, and other streets, did what they did where they did it - and quite
a lot of it, about 30 pounds worth each. That translates (30 pounds times
68 horses) to a ton of horse manure a day left on the street. At times,
successive hooves pounded it down into an almost continuous carpet from
59th to 72d Streets. On hot days especially, runners, bikers and
strollers had a hard time breathing.

Now, because of a new Parks Department regulation, the 68 carriages are
equipped with wood and canvas hampers rigged behind the horse to collect
droppings before they hit the street. A casual weekend survey of a dozen
carriages passing through the park showed 100 percent compliance.
It was not easy to achieve the regulations or the compliance. At first,
the idea of horse hampers was ridiculed (''Horse diapers! Just think how
big the safety pins must be!''). Then some carriage owners derided it as
an unimaginably trivial concern for a city bedeviled by homelessness and
crack. Then other owners protested that the hampers were cruel, chafing
the horses, and even unsafe (why, they could bang against and frighten a
horse going down hill).

None of the arguments held much water, not considering that a dozen other
cities have long used hampers successfully. Commissioner Stern persisted,
with proposed rules, hearings and final rules - and now the carriages are
in compliance.

There will still be horse manure in the park; hampers attached to
carriage rigging are not practical for riding horses or police horses.
But there won't be nearly as much. The hampers are emptied at the stable,
and the manure, instead of being left to collect on the shoes and tires
of passers-by, is hauled away. The happy result for residents and
tourists is a park that's considerably more pleasant and streets that are
a ton less mean.

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