Mayor Bill de Blasio has unveiled an agreement to keep carriage horses in Central Park. That's good news for those who love tradition, but bad news for pedicabs.
The pitch goes something like this: There are a few sites in New York City that you, welcomed visitor, must see before you leave. There is Ground Zero, there is the Empire State Building, there is Times Square. But the jewel of it all, the heart of the Big Apple, the calming center, great pride, marvel of design, conservation and planning, is Central Park.
You must see the park, the pitch continues, before adding in the final playful twist: It's too big to see on foot.
This is the pedicab pitch. The golden promise, that the best tour of the park is on a pedicab's three wheels, powered by a knowledgeable guide.
The operators have a number of things going against them — cold weather and the fairly widespread perception that the rider is in danger of being ripped off, chief among them.
But those pedicab operators who work mostly in Central Park, as opposed to on city streets, are facing an existential challenge: being forced to cede Olmstead and Vaux's masterpiece to their brother competitors in park transportation, the horse drawn carriages.
Hold your horses
Mayor Bill de Blasio got himself mixed up in equine politics early.
Animal rights groups campaigned and spent mightily to knock his pro-horse rival, Christine Quinn, out of the mayoral race. Candidate de Blasio said he would ban the rigs from the park on day one of his administration.
That proved easier said than done.
Two years later, de Blasio announced an "agreement in concept" on horse carriages. He couldn't deliver a ban, but instead found a way to restrict the horses to Central Park, trim their numbers, and build a new stable within the park's environs.
But the agreement announced last weekend also includes a provision banning pedicabs inside the park below 85th street.
De Blasio says that the pedicab "adjustment" was necessary for reasons of balance, but many pedicab operators feel that their demise was a sweetener to convince the unionized horse and carriage drivers to accept the deal.
And though some pedicabs might survive in the streets, that is the only place where they'd be able to, according to Laramie Flick, a pedicab operator and former president of the NYC Pedicab Owners Association. Tourists simply don't make it far beyond the southern border of the park.
"To not allow pedicabs below 85th Street is to not allow us in Central Park," Flick says.