A wealthy donor says he has the solution to replacing controversial horse-drawn carriages in Central Park — but will his contraption electrify the imaginations of tourists?
Joshua Fox says he will give an electric-carriage prototype to the city in an effort to kickstart the elimination of horse-drawn vehicles, and is willing to spend millions to finance a whole fleet.
“I have been an animal lover and animal freedom fighter since the day I was born,” Fox, a 46-year-old Floridian, told the Post. “I lived in New York City for decades and I got to the point where I couldn’t even go to the Upper West Side and Central Park because it was so painful for me to watch the horses.
“These horses were just miserable and just looked so sad and didn’t belong there. They don’t belong on the streets of Manhattan, with cars and honking and exhaust.”
Fox, the founder and CEO of Bottom Line Savings, a company that helps businesses find ways to cut costs, has commissioned a prototype carriage from E-Carriage LLC. The vehicle is now under construction in South Carolina.
“It has a drive-axle and low-speed motor. The speed can be regulated,” said carriage maker Kyle Kelly. “I built this to look like it was built around the turn of the century. You would think this rolled off the assembly line in the late 1800s.”
But Christina Hansen, a spokeswoman for the Transit Workers Union which has long protected the city’s horse carriage industry, said horses — not electric engines — are the draw.
“We’re horse people. We are not electric carriage people. We are not golf cart people. We are not motorized vehicle people. We are horse people. Anybody who thinks that a machine can replace a horse clearly has no idea what humanity’s love affair with horses is about. People come here for the horses. Not for the carriage,” Hansen said.
She called an image of Fox’s electric vehicle “hideous without a horse. … Dangerous, unreliable, fire-hazard, pedestrian hazard … I could go on.”
Fox said he expects the vehicle to be ready for city use by spring, and will cost a cool $100,000. He will make no profit, he said.
“We are absolutely on board. I love the idea,” said Allie Taylor, president of Voters for Animal Rights. “It is an exact replica of what a horse carriage looks like, the only element that isn’t there is the abused carriage horse.”
Fox’s team has been in touch with Councilman Bob Holden, a longtime horse carriage industry opponent, along with Frank Carone, and Mayor Adams’s well-connected former chief of staff. Holden’s office introduced a bill in July that would ban horse carriages and replace them with electric ones.
“Anyone that wants to help animals, in this case, the horses, we welcome the support. I think it will help put us over the top,” Holden said of Fox’s plans.
The industry has long been in the crosshairs of city animal rights activists, and a renewed push to outlaw horse-drawn carriages came after a frail carriage horse named Ryder was beaten by his owner after he collapsed in Hell’s Kitchen street last year.