- - Friday, May 9, 2014

Horse-drawn carriages have been part of Central Park for more than a century. The rides give romantics a chance to set aside the modern world for a little while to experience Manhattan in a unique way. But now the new mayor, Bill de Blasio, is determined to send the horses to the glue factory. For their own good, of course.

Eliminating a popular tradition that will put 300 drivers and 200 horses out of work is part of Mr. de Blasio’s campaign make the city over in his own grim and joyless image. Mr. de Blasio says the carriages are inhumane, dangerous and exploitative. But what he’s really after is an opportunity to replace the majestic and patient horses with electric cars, which he calls “Horseless eCarriages.” Cute, but would a guy want to spoon with his gal on a ride through the park in a slow-moving electric?

Though they’re made to look old-timey, sort of, the electric cars must be manufactured at a cost of $150,000 to $175,000, seat belts and air bags probably not optional. That’s almost enough to substitute a classic open-top Rolls-Royce from the 1930s, but Mr. de Blasio doesn’t do class. He thinks electric cars will make him more liberal than thou, or at least more liberal than his predecessor, Michael R. Bloomberg, who thinks the city should keep the horses.

Manhattan’s horse-drawn carriages are already among the most tightly regulated small businesses in America. The horses do not have a union, yet, but they can work for no more than nine hours a day and cannot work when it’s too hot or too cold. They get a five-week vacation — with full feed and benefits — every year, and every horse must pass a thorough veterinary examination twice a year.

Dr. Mark Jordan, the veterinarian who monitors the health and living conditions of the carriage horses, makes unannounced visits to the stables to evaluate their care. “These horses are being treated with pride and compassion,” he wrote in an op-ed essay in The New York Daily News, “and are in good health and are living in an appropriate stable with excellent care.”

Their stalls are “large enough to allow the horses to move freely” and they receive “quality food and water throughout the day.” All New Yorkers should be so lucky.

But luxurious lives of Manhattan’s carriage horses will come to a heartbreaking end if and when the ban takes effect. Some “animal rights” groups say they’ll raise the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to rescue the horses. But will they make better parents?

Perhaps, but there are tens of thousands of horses in America that already need adoption. For each New York horse rescued, another in the West will be among the 100,000 adoptable horses the United States sends to slaughter in Canada and Mexico every year.

Mr. de Blasio seems oblivious to the blood of all those horses on his hands. Most of his constituents want nothing to do with his scheme. A Quinnipiac University poll found nearly 2 of every 3 New Yorkers want to keep the horses and carriages.

Many animals are abused elsewhere, and need the care and concern of friends of animals, but the beloved and well-maintained carriage horses that trot in and around Central Park are not among them. The mayor’s notion that he knows what’s best for everyone, including old Dobbin, is what should be put out to pasture. He ought to take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the park. It might do him a world of good.