New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is changing tactics on his fight to criminalize the Central Park horse carriage industry. He now wants to cull, rather than eliminate, the herd.
De Blasio is proposing to shrink the number of horses allowed to provide carriage rides from 220 to a a few dozen. He also is proposing moving the horses from their home on the West Side of Manhattan to a Central Park stable, which he says will minimize their exposure to city traffic.
The mayor’s push has failed to gain traction since declaring during his campaign for the office 2 years ago that he intended to ban horse-drawn carriages in his first week on the job. The attempt to criminalize the carriage horses, which have been in operation for nearly 160 years, has been met with resistance from a number of critics — residents, business owners, unions, equine veterinarians, farriers and of course the carriage drivers themselves.
Any reduction in the carriage horses would devastate Lancaster County, Pa., farrier Aaron Hoover.
“I do about 40% of them, I’d say, at three different barns — Clinton Park, one at 38th Street and the other at 37th Street,” he says. “The rest of the week, I shoe around my home. I guess I’m going to have to find more customers [if the carriage horses are reduced or eliminated].”
Yet, the push to criminalize carriage horses also been beset with scandal.
While de Blasio and his animal welfare activists claim that the practice is inhumane, questions about the motives have arisen, namely that Steve Nislick — the founder of New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets (NYCLASS) and a real estate magnate — wants to acquire the prime property that's home to the carriage horse stables. In addition, de Blasio’s pledge to ban the carriage horses is the subject of an FBI investigation.
De Blasio declined to divulge details about his latest plan.
“I can’t comment on anything until we see if there’s some resolution, and we’re just not there yet,” he told The New York Times. “We’ve been going back and forth with the Council now for quite a while. There have been some real differences, and we’ve been trying to work them through.”
The Teamsters reiterated it’s long-standing openness to a compromise.
“But the Teamsters would accept nothing short of preserving the horse carriage industry and the livelihoods of our members,” according to a statement from George Miranda, president of the Teamsters branch that represents carriage horse workers.