Last week, as his last act before leaving office, Sag Harbor Town Mayor Robert Bujois announced that he had made an arrangement with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to buy the 32 horse carriages that take visitors around Central Park from in front of the Plaza Hotel on 59th Street and Fifth Avenue and use them for the tourists in Sag Harbor. De Blasio is looking to phase out the horse carriages and replace them with electric cars for those rides.
“I just felt so bad for those poor horses that now might have nothing to do,” Mayor Bujois said at a press conference yesterday. “And all those coachmen out of a job. And then I thought that sometimes opportunity just comes knocking. When it does, seize it.”
Apparently, the Sag Harbor mayor’s decision was made without consultation with his fellow councilmen. A few grumbled about it when they first learned of it. But what’s done is done. As Bujois pointed out, if Sag Harbor didn’t do it, someone else would.
Everything has been arranged. The horses and carriages will arrive in Sag Harbor and be ready to report for duty on Friday morning, May 23. There will be three different routes. Rides will take one half-hour and will leave from the foot of Long Wharf, next to the historic Sag Harbor windmill. One route will take tourists up Main Street to the Whaling Museum and Customs House, then down Garden Street to Long Island Avenue and back. A second route will go up Main Street but continue on Madison Street and up to the Boaz Vaadia statue in front of the former church there, then left to Turkey Hill and then down through to Billy Joel’s house on Bay Street and then home to the wharf. The third route will head to the left down Bay Street into the historic former Underground Railroad freedom trail district, then up Jermain to Otter Pond and home.
“We did make a change in that third route,” the mayor said. “Originally we had it going up one side of Mount Misery and down the other, but as some of my colleagues pointed out who are familiar with horses, this would be too hard a pull.”
All 32 horses and carriages will line up for muster on Long Wharf in the morning, and they will be leaving at 15-minute intervals to head out on the routes. At the end of the day, all the horses will trot over to one of the prominent horse farms in nearby Bridgehampton, where it is expected that either Matt Lauer or Madonna, who both own horse farms there, will provide stalls and stables. All the carriages will be lined up side-by-side on Long Wharf, 16 on each side, every night. That alone will be quite something, and most certainly a photo op.
A few of the carriage drivers are currently in Sag Harbor. As the service continues in Central Park for the present time, they come out four at a time to go over the three different routes. The reduction in the city from 32 to 28 is hardly noticeable.
This reporter interviewed one of the carriage drivers, Carlos Masomenos. “Each of the three routes is very pretty,” he said. “I’m glad they decided against Mount Misery. And of course I am very glad we will be able to continue offering our services to the general public.”
At the press conference, the mayor was asked how he intended to deal with the problem of horse poop and liquids that emit frequently from the back of horses.
“I am very disturbed about this,” the questioner said, who identified himself as a store owner on Main Street. “We can’t be selling dresses or hats with that smell out in the street.”
But the mayor had thought of everything. He too had wondered about that. But he had learned that such horse-and-carriage rides have been going on for years in Charleston, South Carolina, so he went down there to see how it was done.
“The streets are fine,” he said. “The horses have bags under their behinds for the hard stuff. And they have a special chemical truck with a sprayer that is taken along these routes to wash the streets clean of bad liquids. The liquids go down the drain. The trucks follow each route every hour.
“They also have an interesting system for deciding which of their routes the horses should go on,” he continued. “And we will be adopting that here. All the drivers want the best routes each time. But you can’t have that. You know how, when you see the state lottery on TV, sometimes they pick a number from Ping-Pong balls inside a glass dome that are jumping around until one pops up? It’s a random thing. And everybody is happy with it. We’ve already ordered the dome and balls, and it will be operated from inside the windmill. Each driver gets a ‘ticket’ that shows the route he’s supposed to be on, in case he gets stopped.”
“What if you start this thing,” another questioner asked, “and it turns out to be terrible. Can we decide it doesn’t work out?”
“This is my legacy,” the mayor said. “The agreement is for five years and it starts Memorial Day Weekend. After that, you can do what you want.”
The incoming mayor, Linda Paddywack, sat grim-faced in the back, listening to all of this.