QuestionCan you park a horse in New York City?
Hopes&Fears answers questions, with the help of people who know what they're talking about. We attempted to ask the NYPD if it's legal to park a horse. The answer is more complicated than expected.
Can you park a horse in New York City? That is to say, simply, can a person riding a horse in the city stop, dismount, tie up their horse, and go run an errand? The answer is more complicated than we thought, leading to more questions. First question being, how hard is it to find out whether something is illegal or not? Answer: without paying an attorney, it's a pain in the ass.
The most obvious place to find out the law, we assumed, would be to ask a cop, so we called the NYPD. As of 2011, the mounted unit consisted of 79 police officers and 60 horses, which seem difficult to hide. And yet, after contacting 26 police precincts and the Public Information's Office of the Deputy Commissioner, no one seemed to know the exact location of the mounted police unit. We were repeatedly handed a fax number instead of a phone number, and a vague idea that the mounted unit was located somewhere on 57th street, cross street and house number unknown.
Where are the horses? No one seemed to know or wanted to go on record. The New York Police Department has a contentious relationship with the press and the law itself, so we weren't surprized that the press contact never got back to us. A representative of the Office of the Deputy Commissioner, who refused to give his name, said, "I don’t know everything about my job. Do you?"
We turned to the charter, online. According to New York's traffic code.
New York Traffic Code, Section 1261
Traffic laws apply to persons riding or leading horses.
Every person riding or leading a horse upon a roadway shall be granted all rights and shall be subject to all the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this title, except as to special regulations in this article and except as to those provisions of this title which by their nature can have no application.
That is some pretty confusing legalese that seems to only be saying that anyone on horseback should follow the same traffic laws as the driver of an automobile.
So we called 311. A representative said that she did not have any such information and did not have a phone number for the mounted unit. With a little more prodding, she suggested a novel idea for inquiring about parking a horse -- call the Parks and Recreation Department. We called them.
Assistant Council for the New York City Parks and Recreation Department
You can ride a horse in the city’s parks only on designated bridle paths, so you can ride a horse in our parks. However, it is illegal to leave your horse unattended for any reason.
That is all defined in section 1-05q.
That's progress. No, you cannot park a horse in the park though you can ride a horse in designated areas. But what about riding a horse on the street?
We turned to the Department of Transportation. The press department representative said to send an email. (They never replied to the email.) But they did direct us to an online set of rules.
Department of Transportation.
Section 4-12 of the New York City Traffic Rules
f) Unbridled horse
No person shall leave a horse unbridled or unattended in a street or unenclosed place unless the horse is securely fastened, or harnessed to a vehicle with wheels so secured as to prevent it from being dragged faster than a walk.
More progress! If you, an average citizen, want to park your horse, it must be "harnessed to a vehicle with wheels so secured as to prevent it from being dragged faster than a walk." By that logic, a carriage horse driver would be allowed to park the horse as long as it doesn't get loose and run through the streets while being chased by the NYPD.
A question remained: Is a cop is allowed to park a horse? Should they be covered by the above laws and also have special privileges?
We called the NYPD switchboard one last time and explained our progress, in detail. This time we spoke with someone who sympathized with our situation. She was able to locate a number for the mounted unit in The Bronx. Eureka!
The officer who answered the phone in the Bronx told us to speak to the press department, by now, a futile endeavor. After some extra pleading, he was willing to tell us this much:
Sergeant. NYPD Mounted Unit
Was not willing to give us his name.
We travel with trailers, so yes we can stop and use the bathroom or take care of something and we just put the horse in a trailer. No, we cannot just tie the horse up on the street where it might get hit by a car, if that's what you mean.
There you have it! The NYPD can park a horse in its designated trailers. Why is that such an intensely protected secret? That's a question for another day.
COVER ILLUSTRATION: Sergii Rodionov