Bill de Blasio has been mayor for about four months and the carriage horses are still here. Now it looks like they'll survive the year, at least, unless of course they get hit by cars. But the Daily News and its incredibly vigorous campaign to save the carriages has taken us down an interesting path: THE POLICE HORSES. Who cries for them?
If it's hard to be a carriage horse, it can't be easy to be a crime horse. NYClass, the organization providing a lot of the money and most of the talking points for the anti-carriage set, says that carriage horses are "unaccustomed to the urban environment" with its "busy and unsafe streets," and that the "hard pavement" and "exhaust from cars, buses and taxis" make their lives miserable. At least the carriage horses spend their time in Central Park. On top of that the police horses have to deal with Times Square, a forsaken pre-apocalyptic advertising experiment that is almost too much for humans to bear, much less gentle ponies. Surely the mayor has some concerns about this, even if police horses are better cared for off the clock.
But, no. The mayor told a reporter yesterday, "It's apples and oranges… (The mounted unit) is something that’s about the public’s vital interests. So I think it’s a very different reality than something that’s about tourism." This may be the case, but it doesn't jibe with the police department's own PR. In 2011, Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne characterized the horses as "tremendous ambassadors of good will." He was happy to characterize them as tourist attractions: "I’d hazard to guess that our horses are photographed more often than Kim Kardashian," he said. As for their utility, he says, "added height and visibility" is a bonus.
I imagine de Blasio is choosing his fights with the NYPD carefully, but he's setting up a trap: Eventually, the city will either go all in on tourist torture horses or get rid of them completely, whether or not they have officers of the law on their backs. And it seems like the department might be worried, even if it won't say so directly. Take this impeccably timed and weirdly disorienting piece in the Times last week, in which the mounted unit shows off its new headquarters and stables, which will share the ground floor of the West Side mega-luxury Mercedes House tower with a car dealership:
Special flooring soothes legs weary from a long day’s work. Ten-foot-high doors offer easy passage between spacious rooms. A high-tech ventilation system eliminates even the worst odors.
Most crucially, there’s a state-of-the-art hayloft.
“It’s definitely high-end accommodations,” said Deputy Inspector Barry Gelbman, commander of the New York Police Department’s mounted unit. “They’re some of the nicest stables I’ve ever seen.”
Police horses aren't just comfortable and healthy. They're gentrifiers! They enjoy the grit and the noise of the city and go home to their glass castles at night.