During the Holidays my parents and I would frequently take long walks through Central Park. Sometimes, if the weather were conducive, those would take us past Wollman ice skating rink and down to the park’s southern end. I always enjoyed those long walks – particularly because it gave me the opportunity to go up to and pet the horses that drew the hansom cabs. My favorite was a roan named Buttercup.
My parents strongly believed that children should be raised with non-human companions and so there was always a dog in our home. They believed that sharing childhood with other creatures was essential in teaching kids respect for life in all its forms. There was nothing that upset them or me more than stories of animal abuse. This was my introduction to respecting life and celebrating diversity – long before the latter became technically chic and we restricted the definition to other humans.
One night , two weeks before Christmas, dad came home from work and made an announcement at dinner. The following evening he was going to take us to Central Park and we were going to take a carriage ride in the hansoms. I remember my sense of excitement at this news. I had always wanted to ride in the back of one of these vintage carriages but I knew the rides were expensive. I hoped that we could ride in the carriage that Buttercup drew.
As it turned out, Buttercup was off duty that evening so our ride was pulled by a horse named Alfie. It occurred to me that in the hour the carriage moved along that this was an incredibly slow way to travel. It gave me a new appreciation for the pioneers who made their way west in Conestoga wagons. And I must admit that the ride wasn’t all that comfortable. Still, it was a fun thing to do and turned into what is most likely to be a once in a lifetime experience.
One of the first pronouncements of New York’s recently elected mayor, Bill de Blasio is that the hansom cab rides will be terminated because they represent an expression of animal cruelty. Frankly, if I believed that I would be one of the first in line to support their retirement. But the facts tell a different story.
The horses and their drivers are, like almost everything else in New York, highly regulated by the city. They are required to get a complete veterinarian exam twice a year; the rules regulating the business requires that they have at least an eight week annual vacation and are not permitted to work in rainy or extreme weather; and their diet must meet high standards set by the city.
While I haven’t lived in my birth city for a long while, I have a sneaky suspicion that the well-being of the hansom cab horses is not the most pressing one that New Yorkers face. If it were, they should rename the city, Utopia. And perhaps as the mayor matures into his responsibilities he will find, as he did several weeks after his announcement regarding the hansom cabs, that New Yorkers are more concerned about the clearance of snow from their streets – particularly in the streets in neighborhoods which did not vote for him.
It always amazes me that the liberal left in their pursuit of securing peace on earth and equity for all so often disregard the bodies they are willing to throw under the bus in the interest of achieving their goals. In the case of the hansom cabs, those bodies are the two hundred drivers who earn their living guiding their steeds through the park. Some of them have been at their jobs for over thirty years.
Now in fairness to the mayor, he has a plan to replace the hansom cabs with pseudo-vintage electric cars. Thus he can both placate animal rights groups and the various environmental groups which helped fund his election campaign. Oh, and this idea co-incidentally came from a campaign contributor, a chap by the name of Steve Nislick.
Actually, Mr. Nislick is more than just a contributor to the mayor’s successful election campaign. Mr. Nislick happens to be the CEO of a company named Edison Properties which operates parking lots and storage units. Interestingly, the bulk of Edison’s business interests happen to be in the vicinity of the five stables which house New York’s hansom cab horses. Naturally, if the horses are retired those stables would most likely be sold and converted to other uses – such as parking lots or storage units.
Perhaps the casual reader will think that de Blasio’s motivation is nothing more than the typical iconoclastic destruction of anything that represents tradition. The hansom cabs certainly fit that mold as they have been active since Central Park was opened in 1857. But that theory comes into question if you realize that the day he was sworn in, he and his family moved into Gracie Mansion, the official residence of NY’s mayors, built in 1799 which had been eschewed by his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg. Incidentally, the former mayor had, at his own expense, completely refurbished the residence as a gift to the people of the city.
Of course suggesting that personal self-interest might be the guiding force in the mayor’s reversal of his position on the hansom cabs from the days he was a member of the City Council will undoubtedly bring the left to its feet, shouting cries of “racism.” After all, the mayor’s wife is a black woman. That is if they have time left over from calling black conservatives “Uncle Toms” and making fun of Justice Clarence Thomas for having married a spouse who happens to be white.