NEW YORK (CAP) - Bowing to pressure from animal activists who think horses on busy streets is cruel, New York will be replacing the city's historic horse-drawn carriages with rickshaws pulled by homeless residents.
"While it saddens me to end a 155-year-old tradition, I'm excited to give jobs to people who really need them," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "And it won't be long before our city has the most athletically fit homeless population this side of the Mississippi."
While critics of the horse-carriage industry applaud the mayor's efforts to make a change to what many call an outdated practice, they say replacing the horses with unkempt people pulling rickety carts changes what the city is all about.
"People come to our city for that authentic New York experience," said Alan FitzPatrick, who operates a tourism kiosk in Central Park. "They want to step over homeless people sleeping in doorways, not dodge them running up and down sidewalks.
"You can't panhandle if you're out of breath," he added. "Just sayin'."
The issue has become fodder for the upcoming mayoral election, with frontrunner Bill de Blasio supporting old time electric cars as a replacement, and challenger Joe Lhota suggesting construction of mini canals through the city that feature gondola rides for tourists.
"You know, homeless people can operate gondolas just as well as they can carry rickshaws," Lhota said of his convoluted plan. "Of course, we're just replacing the unfortunate smell of the horses with the unfortunate smell of the homeless.
"But hey - whatever wins me this race," Lhota added. "You know what they say: go homeless, or go home."
The mayor's plan would put 75 rickshaws into circulation with about 200 operators licenses available at homeless shelters throughout the city. The cost of a ride will range from $50 to $150 depending on the length, time of day, and how inebriated the operator is at the start of the trip.
- CAP News Staff