Will This Antique-Style Electric Car Replace NYC’s Horse-Drawn Carriages?

May 2, 2013 | Andy Cush

You’re a tourist in New York City, looking to add a bit of old-world charm to your evening out with your loved one. Naturally, after leaving the theater, you head uptown to Central Park for a romantic trip in an one of the city’s iconic horse-drawn carriages old-timey electric cars.

That’s the vision of the future proposed by NYCLASS, an animal rights organization that’s been railing against what it calls a dangerous and abusive industry since forming in 2008. Recognizing the need for a replacement for the carriages, which generate millions of dollars of revenue for the city and employ dozens of drivers, the organization has come up with a novel, promising solution. Electric automobiles like the one above, styled after early-20th century cars, which, according to NYCLASS, will satisfy tourists’ hunger for old-world artifice, let drivers keep their jobs, and maintain and even increase the city’s revenue stream, and end a living nightmare for stables full of innocent animals.

“For years and years, activists have tried to do things like ban the industry, without a replacement,” NYCLASS director Allie Feldman told ANIMAL. “And those efforts have been unsuccessful because the City Council realizes the horses are a part of the city’s tourism. We realize that if we want to get these horses off the street, we need to work with the industry and come up with a solution that would replace the horses and the jobs without just putting the drivers out.”

To that end, the organization has contracted a Florida car restoration firm to build a prototype of the electric car, and is petitioning City Council to allow trial run along the carriage route through Central Park to test the cars’ feasibility.

The only roadblock, according to Feldman, is Council Speaker and 2013 mayoral candidate Christine Quinn. Feldman says the electric car pilot has the support of 32 of City Council’s 51 members, including all Manhattan members–except for Quinn, who Feldman describes as having “her hands in the pockets of the carriage drivers” via campaign donations.

There’s no current bill that would allow NYCLASS’s pilot program to move forward–Feldman says they’re “building up support for the concept of a pilot” –but the organization says it would come out with legislation if it could get Quinn on board to allow a vote (as council speaker, Quinn has the power to decide which pending bills are voted on and which aren’t).

Incidentally, NYCLASS is part of the coalition of organizations that released the first television ad of this year’s election season, an incendiary spot that’s part of a million-dollar campaign called “Anybody But Quinn,” which Quinn herself threatened to have pulled off the air.

The campaign is intended to “Highlight Quinn’s record on animals, living wages, human rights, term limits, et cetera.” Feldman says. “To show people that Quinn isn’t what she makes herself out to be. And we feel that a way that a person treats animals in New York City is reflective of the way that they will treat humans.”

“Like I said, there’s been 32 councilmembers who have come out and publicly supported the pilot program. They’ve all sent letters personally to Christine Quinn, asking her to come on board,” she adds later. “But she sucks.”