Colm McKeever horse and carriage driver with his horse in Central Park.Irish Voice

The saga of the New York City Carriage horses has neared something of a turning point, as the City Council draws closer to introducing a bill that would gradually see the carriage horse stables transition into Central Park.

As the New York Daily News, which has stood firmly for the carriage drivers throughout this debate, reported earlier this week, the latest proposal would see the carriage horses reside in Central Park, keeping them from joining the traffic on the city streets which has so concerned animal activists.

According to the proposal, 75 horses - a significant decrease from the current 220 - would be able to operate within Central Park by 2018. To prevent any competition, pedicabs would be restricted from operating above 85th Street in Central Park. In addition, carriage drivers would be able to include a $5 surcharge on rides after 6:00 pm and on specific holidays.

The fate of New York City’s carriage horses, as well as that of their drivers - many of whom are Irish - has hung in the balance since Mayor Bill de Blasio took office at the start of 2014. One of the democrat mayor’s key campaign promises was that he would put an end to the city’s carriage horse industry on his first day in office - proposing instead to replace the carriages and horses with vintage cars.

But the carriage drivers, who are represented by the Teamsters union, did not just go gently into the good night. Instead, the rallied the support of the city (according to a number of public polls), the major newspapers, and a number of key advocates, including actor Liam Neeson, who railed against de Blasio, accusing him of trying to instigate a land grab for some of his key campaign donors who happen to be both part of NYCLASS, an animal advocacy group, and high-profile Manhattan real estate developers.

Neeson at a press conference with the carriage drivers

Neeson at a press conference with the carriage drivers

While this latest development would ensure that a portion of the carriage driver jobs are maintained - and that the remaining carriage horses would not be ‘put out to pasture,’ some critics have also noted that it conveniently would free up the land the horse stables currently occupy, surrounded by high-rise luxury developments.

What do you think of this latest proposal for the NYC carriage horses? Share your thoughts in the comment section, below.