Just when it appears that New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has given up his quixotic quest to criminalize horse-drawn carriages, he continues beating a dead horse. While tilting at windmills, his actions confirm what many have suspected all along — it’s not about protecting horses.
Three years ago, de Blasio vowed to ban carriage horses on day one of taking office. More than 700 days later, he has failed to muster the support necessary to win approval for the incredibly unpopular bill.
“As far as I know, the bill only has seven sponsors,” says Ritchie Torres, a Bronx council member who doesn’t support the plan. “Even the most controversial pieces of legislation have more than that.”
As his options dry up, de Blasio desperately is changing his tune. No longer does he want to erase carriage horses from “the landscape in New York City.” Rather, he now wants compromise.
The mayor is proposing to shrink the number of horses from 220 to about 70. Here’s the kicker — he also wants to move the remaining horses from their homes on the West Side of Manhattan to a Central Park stable, which he says will minimize their exposure to city traffic.
Does part of his proposed compromise sound familiar? Nearly 2 years ago when de Blasio’s hue and bluster was riling up celebrities, animal rights activists and the self-proclaimed experts who have no business being around a horse, he wasn’t willing to entertain a compromise to stable the carriage horses in Central Park.
While the move to Central Park is appealing for carriage horse drivers, culling the herd, as it were, is a nonstarter.
“I like the idea of a stable [in Central Park],” one driver, who declined to give his name, told the New York Daily News. “No one wants to ride in traffic with buses, cabs and cars. But they should not reduce the number of medallions. I don’t like that.”
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].”
De Blasio says a final proposal is being discussed with council members.
“The back and forth is part of the legislative process, and we’re not there yet,” he told Good Day New York, a local morning news program. “Part of the give and take of democracy is trying to see if we can come to something we can agree on.”
Aside from the lack of votes, why the change of heart? De Blasio owes a considerable debt to Steve Nislick and the sycophants at his New Yorkers for Clean, Liveable and Safe Streets (NYCLASS). After all, he rode the wave of their considerable support into office and now he must pay the piper.
"The mayor stated unequivocally that he would end horse-drawn carriage rides in Manhattan,” says animal-rights activist Donny Moss, who helped start the Anybody But Quinn group that toppled de Blasio’s Democratic primary rival Christine Quinn. “He also said that he would lobby Council members in support of his bill. He has done neither. Is he really looking to alienate his base — the very people who worked tirelessly to get him elected?”
Although that’s the more palatable reason for public consumption, it belies the true motive. The property on which the stables call home is coveted, prime real estate. Nislick, a real estate developer, and his close associates donated $1.1 million — $320,000 above the legal limit — to aide de Blasio’s campaign. The FBI reportedly is investigating NYCLASS for its campaign contributions to Moss’ Anybody But Quinn campaign.
If Nislick truly wants the property, he should pony up a fair price for it and de Blasio and the council should allow construction of new stables in Central Park that will allow carriage drivers to continue providing a top-notch home for all of the 220 horses.