Central Park Conservancy against electric car plan replacing horse carriages

Art McFarland reports on Mayor De Blasio's plan to replace horsedrawn carriages with electric cars.
April 17, 2014 9:49:15 PM PDT
In a blow to Mayor De Blasio's plan to replace horse-drawn carriages in Central Park with electric touring cars, the Central Park Conservancy voiced their opposition saying the vehicles will make the park "less safe."

Doug Blonsky, President & CEO of Central Park Conservancy told the Daily News that with "forty million people visiting Central Park each year, including runners, bicyclists, kids and dog owners," the vehicles would also "increase congestion."

The Conservancy's stance reinforces that of street safety groups which have made a car-free Central Park a priority and have garnered written support from every neighboring community board for a car-free proposal.

If the mayor's plan proceeds, cars would be in Central Park during the day and on the weekends for the first time in almost 50 years.

"As carriage drivers, our priority is safety ? for our horses, for our riders, and for all park users," said Christina Hansen, spokesperson for the carriage industry. "With tens of thousands of injuries caused by car crashes every year in New York City, why bring cars into Central Park at all times of day?"

Teamsters Local 553, which represents the city's 300 carriage drivers, has long opposed the decision to eliminate horse-drawn carriages from the park, citing the middle-class wages the job provides.

"It is great to have the Conservancy's support," said carriage horse driver Ángel Hernández. "Tourists and New Yorkers keep telling us that they are not interested in riding a car through the park. I would not be able to provide for my family if horse carriages are banned."

Uncertainty about the vehicles' appeal and its high costs are also concerns.

"These vintage cars, just in the prototype stage, are untested," said Demos Demopoulos, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 553 "These middle-class people are being asked to go $150,000 into debt to buy a car that no tourist wants to ride in. You call that a solution?"

Art McFarland will have more on this story on Eyewitness News at 5pm.