by Nicole Rivard
The debate that’s raging over the use of horse-drawn carriages on New York City’s streets—Mayor Bill De Blasio has pledged to ban the industry, an initiative Friends of Animals supports—even created a buzz at the New York Auto Show at the Jacob Javits Center on Thursday.
NYClass, a non-profit animal advocacy organization, gave Jason Wenig (shown bottom left) the honor and challenge of designing a vehicle that celebrates the nostalgia and romance of the early 1900s to take the place of the horse-drawn carriages in Manhattan.
And Wenig, the president of The Creative Workshop TCW, a classic car restoration business located in Florida, delivered Thursday at the auto show, unveiling his Horseless eCarriage, the first brass-era-type car in more than 100 years.
The eight-passenger, fully electric prototype, and all its brass fixings, stole the show as members of the media climbed in and out of the wood and aluminum vehicle with vinyl seats while photographing and videotaping its features. It features an open-design with a removable top to increase passenger experience.
“I began working with the horseless eCarriage program about five years ago when NYClass chose me to build a vehicle that could effectively and respectfully replace the horse-drawn carriages here in the city,” Wenig explained. “If you are a New Yorker you have no doubt heard about this proposal and have a strong opinion. If you are from out of town, suffice it to say a serious debate is underway.”
“The early 1900s is a time interestingly enough when a similar debate raged over the carriage and horse being replaced by the horseless carriage, and the horseless carriage becoming the primary means of transportation in NYC for reasons of convenience, safety and even environmental concerns,” added David Madeira, president and CEO of America’s Car Museum. “Even electric cars like this were part of that era.”
Wenig said he is confident that the vehicle TCW created is a worthy successor to the original brass-era horseless carriages that roamed the concrete canyons of New York City back in the day. “It is an homage, a car that celebrates the style and personality of that era,” he said.
NYC Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez’s excitement about the prototype was palpable as he stood at the podium next to the vehicle.
He thanked everyone for working so hard “to give our horses a chance to live in peace,” including Mayor Bill De Blasio and Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for standing behind the initiative to ban horse-drawn carriages in NYC.
“I know it is just a matter of time when we will past legislation to bring these new cars—and replace the horses—to the streets of New York City,” Rodriguez said.
According to Capital New York, a publication for and about the people and institutions that shape New York, a citywide ban on horse-drawn carriages is being drafted in City Council. The publication reported last month that Queens Democrat and Council Member Daniel Dromm, who was at the NY Auto Show Thursday, is the primary author of the legislation.
“I have two daughters. One is in first grade,” Rodriguez said. “Now she is studying about birds and animals, and I believe that NYC is about being progressive. And being progressive means to protect our animals’ rights. Having horses get in accidents in New York City is unacceptable. We have to bring about the changes we need to provide New Yorkers and millions of tourists an opportunity to go around and discover New York City with a new form of transportation—that is going to be these news cars. This is a great day. This great initiative will benefit everyone.”
The car would be manufactured locally in one of the five boroughs, creating jobs and bringing a new industry to the city.
The hefty price tag for the Horseless eCarriage—$150,000—has some seeking other alternatives. Alex and Anita Gerami told WNYC radio that they have developed their own solution: a hybrid carriage. The Geramis are the owners of Chateau Stables on West 48th St, and they believe their carriage idea makes more financial sense — it uses a motor from a golf cart and costs about $10,000.
New York City residents should contact their City Council member and urge passage of a bill that bans the horse-drawn carriage industry and ensures horses are placed in appropriate sanctuaries. Read our NY Director's letter to the editor in The New York Times below for more information about this issue and why this industry should be banned.
You can find your NYC Council member here.
Those who reside outside of New York City can call 212.639.9675 to leave a statement with Mayor de Blasio supportive of banning horse-drawn carriages.
To the Editor:
”Keep the Carriage Horses” (editorial, April 14) reinforces the mistaken premise that modifications to the carriage industry will make life any less constricting and punishing for the carriage horses, whose highly developed flight drive when spooked should be reason alone for banishment from New York City streets.
The sight of horses trudging through the blare of Times Square or the gridlock near the Lincoln Tunnel should disabuse anyone of the notion that welfare trumps profit in this industry. New York’s extreme traffic conditions and lack of pasture can never be a healthy or safe environment for horses to pull carriages, nor can their tiny stalls ever be adequate for horses that require grass to graze, freedom of movement and socialization.
We can’t change New York City to accommodate carriage horses humanely, but we can change the attitude that insists that horses remain our beasts of burden.
New York, April 14, 2014
The writer is the New York director of Friends of Animals.