Making good on one of his core campaign promises, Mayor Bill de Blasio will introduce legislation this month that will phase out the use of carriage horses in NYC. De Blasio briefed City Council members on the legislation over the weekend, sources tell Capital New York and the NY Post. In its current form, the bill would reportedly end the renewal of licenses to operate carriage horses, all of which expire in 2016.
De Blasio had promised to abolish the use of carriage horses immediately after taking office, and carriage horse opponents helped him in the primary by taking aim at rival Christine Quinn. "We are going to get rid of horse carriages, period," the mayor said during a press conference in his first week. Animal activists insist the use of carriage horses is too dangerous for NYC, and they point to numerous accidents involving carriage horses and motorists on city streets.
Carriage horse operators insist the horses are treated humanely. "We buy these horses from the Amish by the pound. If not for us they would be dog food and glue,” one driver told the Post. "The horses get better health care and more vacation than we do." There are currently 68 licenses in use, according to the Post, which estimates that the industry generates $19 million per year.
According to Capital New York, "The legislation, as currently written, would also require horse owners to notify City Hall at least 10 days before transferring ownership or disposing of their horses. That provision will specifically state that the owners cannot sell or give the horses away to a slaughterhouse and would require documentation to ensure that does not happen."
The bill will also reportedly offer free job training to horse owners and drivers, as well as free permits to operate green cabs. Animal rights advocates have suggested replacing the carriages in Central Park with electric-powered antique car replicas.
“Friends of Animals is immensely gratified that Mayor De Blasio has produced a carriage horse ban bill that will be officially introduced into the New York City Council in a matter of days,” Edita Birnkrant, Friends of Animals’ Campaign Director, said in a statement. "We fully support the Council’s swift action to pass this long overdue legislation so that the dangerous and abusive carriage horse trade can finally be abolished. Friends of Animals has monitored, criticized and agitated against the carriage horse trade for over 40 years from our Columbus Circle office. Finally, a Mayor and City Council are primed to banish, not just attempt to regulate, this cruel industry."
And here's the statement from George Miranda, President of Teamsters Joint Council 16, which represents the carriage drivers:
"This is awful news to give a working family just before the holidays. Three hundred carriage drivers - men and women who have devoted their lives to caring for horses - will be unemployed if this bill is passed.
"The administration wrote this bill without input from the union that represents these drivers. Without visiting the stables where the horses live. Without listening to the 63% of New Yorkers who have voiced their support for the Central Park carriages.
"We do not want to negotiate through the press. The Teamsters and our members in the carriage industry are open to continued dialogue and discussion with the administration so we can find a solution that keeps the horses and drivers in Central Park.
"Our members are horse people. It is all they have ever done and all they want to do. They aren't interested in driving an imaginary electric car or taking a job from a cab driver.
"That is why every editorial board has backed the carriage drivers. It is why the Working Families Party, the Central Labor Council, and the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce have backed the carriage drivers. It is why horse veterinarians, horse welfare organizations, and horse rescue groups have backed the carriage drivers. And it is why the vast majority of New Yorkers have backed the carriage drivers."
It's unclear how many City Council members will support the legislation. It's also unclear who's going to break the news to Liam Neeson.
Update: Asked for details about the legislation, de Blasio spokesperson Monica Klein said, "We’ve been considering a range of options that move the horses off our streets, safeguard the animals, and protect the livelihoods of the men and women who provide carriage rides."