NEW YORK (PIX11) — Carriage horses have been a fixture of the park for more than 160 years. The debate over the future of the industry continues to intensify.

Carriage horse owners and Transport Workers Union Local 100, which represents them, have a new proposal. They titled it “The HEART Platform,” which stands for health, enforcement, accountability, regulations and training.

“The HEART platform includes better oversight by NYC, starting with the city’s hiring of a full-time equine veterinarian to check on the health and welfare of the horses,” the owners and union wrote in the platform. 

They said the equine veterinarian position in the NYC Department of Health has been vacant for a year.

Christina Hansen is a carriage owner and horse lover.  

“There’s plenty of space in the park. We love the horses we love seeing them here,” Hansen said. 

New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets, known as NYCLASS, was founded in 2008 as an animal rights organization. NYCLASS Executive Director Edita Birnkrant called the platform a desperate and transparent ploy. 

“This is a bad faith attempt to continue doing what they’re doing, to continue harming the horses. It’s 2022 and it’s time to evolve,” Birnkrant said. 

The city has a list of rules and regulations for the horses regarding working and living conditions, medical checks and vacations. 

Two hundred horses currently work with 68 independent contractors who are licensed by the city. They are stabled on Manhattan’s West Side, which requires travel on several avenues. 

The issue was again in the public discourse after a horse named Ryder collapsed on the avenue in August. The video circulated on the internet and he was found to have a neurological disease. He was also older than the city requirement. Ryder has been retired to a farm upstate.

Council member Bob Holden said the video is one of the reasons people are paying attention to the issue again. He has introduced a bill that would ban horse-drawn carriages next June and allow electric low-speed vehicles in the park. 

“My bill provides the drivers with a chance to make a better living as this barbaric practice is phased out and clean, electric carriages- not cars- replace them. Their proposal is the last gasp of a deservedly dying industry,” Holden said.  

The bill has 14 sponsors currently. Councilmember Holden says they are looking for more support and hope to have a hearing. Carriage owners are also looking for council members to support their platform and suggest donations could help build the new facility.