Four vignettes of horses in the Square

One hour before midnight, sometimes earlier, some carriages are going to Times Square for working there. This activity is still legal in New York City, despite a few attempts for banning it (Neuman, 2017; Gould, 2018), and after 11:30 pm until three in the morning, it is allowed around the Square. During that period, the street traffic is considerably slower, and the night, plus the LED lights shining in the sky, are the best artificial scenario for a romantic view of skyscrapers, ads, stores, and tourists, riding a possible tired and stressed animal.

There are two options for taking this service: going directly to the carriage and negotiating the package or doing it online. For instance, a reservation on centralparkhorses.com, of 30 minutes stroll around Times Square costs $79. The tour announced on the site includes: “Toys R us, Planet Hollywood, Hard Rock Cafe, ESPN, 42nd Street, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, Replay’s Believe or Not, Port Authority, Mars 2112, Broadway, M&M World, Mama Mia”. Another one, adding going around the Rockefeller Center, plus 20 minutes more of strolling, costs $139, and the combo: Central Park, Rockefeller Center and Times Square, during one hour and twenty minutes, costs $219.

There are, also, two locations for starting this tour around Times Square. The intersection between Central Park South (59th Street) and the 7th Avenue, and the corner at 46th Street between the Marriott Marquis and American Eagle. One can see the carriage parked on the left side of the street. The coachman is usually nearby the carriage looking for clients, feeding the horse and waiting for his working time. The animal is standing there, being the object of many looks and photo shoots. This scene is just another brushstroke in a colorful landscape.

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But horses are not only for tourists. The NYPD Mounted Unit is frequently visible there. Mounted police officers are also a popular spectacle in Times Square. Often one can see those unities around the place surrounded by tourists taking pictures of the duo police-horse.nice picture. The implementation of horses as a part of police surveillance is a practical decision that is giving some advantages, not only related mobility but also about positioning.

Paul J, Browner, a former NYPD Chief Spokesman was explaining in the New York Times the assets of those unities: (a horse) “allows officers to see what is going on in a wider area, but it also allows people in that wider area to see the officers. That helps deter crime, and it also helps people find officers when they need them.” (Cooper, Feb 15, 2011)

In the same article, Browner was also talking about the tourist potential of horses, as well as their ability for offering a good image of the police control: (horses are) tremendous ambassadors of good will,” (…) “I’d hazard to guess that our horses are photographed more often than Kim Kardashian.” The effectivity of using those animals for controlling crowds in the Square looks like a second priority. We are there for the spectacle, after all.

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There is a blog called Carriage Horses NYC that is a platform against this way of employing horses as a tourist attraction. The site offers a broad source of information about the situation of horses used for transporting tourists around the city. The blog only posted once during 2018, but that single post was more than enough for seeing the other side of this harmful activity.

From 2009 to 2018, 55 documented accidents happened, many of them near Central Park. Although Central Park is quite far from Times Square the horses that are going to the Square are the same from Central Park, or at least they come from that place. Fatigue, bad conditions in the stables, exhaustion, and stress are the problems those animals are experiencing there.

There is a law that allows people to use horses for working in carriages as another attraction more. Nevertheless, and despite that regulation, I can not imagine a worse scenario for a horse. They have to be awake working at night and who knows whether they got some rest before. They have to walk over asphalt carrying tourists in the middle of a city landmark full of lights and visual contamination. One thing is what laws say another thing is common sense.

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Going northbound, either through the 7th Avenue or Broadway Avenue, one can see an Applebee’s located in the block between the W. 51st Street and the W. 50th Street. At the right side of the Applebee’s, in the corner, a café called Gregorys Coffee competes with the 10 Starbucks around the area.t, a shop of those famous “I love NY” souvenirs. Specially at nights, at dinner time, but also almost at any time, a big line is waiting, on the sidewalk of the W. 51st Street, for a table at Ellen’s Stardust Diner. This restaurant is famous because the waiters are also both singers, and actors, and eating them always includes a show. 

The Winter Theater is also located in this block, and beside it, a shop of those famous “I love NY” souvenirs. Especially at nights, at dinner time, but also almost at any time, a big line is waiting, on the sidewalk of the W. 51st Street, for a table at Ellen’s Stardust Diner. This restaurant is famous because the waiters are also both singers and actors, and eating them always includes a show.

In 1881, this whole block was the headquarters of the American Horse Exchange, a property of “William K. Vanderbilt and a group of investors” (Gray, 1998). During the 19th Century, the horse and carriage industries were an influential factor in the improvement of the area around the intersection between Broadway Avenue and Seventh Avenue. Before being known as Times Square, Long Acre Square was the name of this intersection. “after Long Acre Square in London, where carriages similarly congregated” (Marton, 2005).

The 12th of July of 1896 a fire consumed the American Horse Exchange, killing around 100 horses and destroyed more than 100 carriages (The New York Times, 1896). Three decades later, “automobiles became increasingly popular, especially to the elite served by the American Horse Exchange. In 1910 the Vanderbilt group leased the entire site to Lee and J. J. Shubert” (Gray, 1998) to build a theater: The Winter Theater. Carriages were not the most common way of transportation anymore, and despite the business is not as lucrative as before, so far, horses are still around Times Square.