Councilman Mark Levine, (left) Danny Dromm, State Assembly Linda Rosenthal, Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, Allie Feldman, executive director of NYCLASS, and other supporters in front of City Hall yesterday.
(Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge
By Geoffrey Croft
Supporters of a bill to ban horse-carriages from Central Park rallied outside City Hall yesterday in the rain to support the controversial legislation.
Proponents say the new legislation being worked by the de Blasio administration provides a unified approach to addressing the issues. The law would establish a displaced worker transitioning training program, seek an economically viable alternative to replace the carriage rides, and include important provisions to help safeguard the future health and well-being of the animals.
The bill would offer displaced carriage drivers a free green taxi medallion provided they purchase handicapped-accessible cabs.
The legislation calls for the solicitation of proposals for a system to replace the horses. On Monday the city will announce the releasing of a Request For Information (RFI) seeking proposals from the private sector to replace the horse rides in Central Park.
The law would be contingent upon the city not renewing the carriage drivers' licenses which are all set to expire on March 31, 2016.
Requirements for the horse owners to humanely transition the horses from carriage rides include a provision that owners may not sell or donate a horse to slaughter would also be included in the deal.
Supports of the legislation held up signs at the press conference.
Although not part of the legislation animals rights activists have been in touch with animal sanctuaries who they say have pledged to house all of the displaced horses if the bill passes. One large sanctuary in California has committed to taking one hundred horses and another has pledged to accommodate fifty according to Edita Birnkrant, Friends of Animals’ Campaign Director.
The legislation will not come up for vote until at least June 2015. During that time the city will conduct an economic impact assessment over the next 6 months to asses what impacts eliminating the horse-drawn carriage industry would have according to a source who was debriefed on the plans.
The bill, supported by Mayor Bill de Blasio, will be introduced at a City Council meeting on Monday.
The Mayor greeted supporters of the bill on the steps of City Hall on his way to a press conference in Brooklyn where he stated he intends to personally lobby City Council members to pass the bill.
“I certainly intend to talk to council members about it, and I think we’re going to have a lot of support in the council,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at an unrelated press conference.
"We’ll begin the process of talking through with Council members why we think it’s important for the future of the city to do this right, and also engaging in a public dialogue," he said.
"I have a lot of confidence that the common sense will win the day here, that it just doesn’t make sense to have horses in the middle of the streets of the busiest city of the country, that we can find a productive way forward,” the Mayor stated.
Friends of Animals has been raising awareness of what it says are the unsafe working conditions and has been lobbying to ban horse-drawn carriages in Central Park since 2006.
“We are 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, ” Ms. Birnkrant said in a statement.
"We fully support the Council’s swift action to pass this crucial 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," she said.
Former City Council member Tony Avella first introduced legislation in 2007 to ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City. The law was not supported by then Mayor Michael Bloomberg or Speaker Christine Quinn.
"De Blasio champions animal rights issues as being a progressive issue and part of a social justice movement—for that we applaud him and support him fully in this history-making legislation that will set a far-reaching precedent and send a message around the world that we can and should make big societal changes to protect animals,” Birnkrant continued.
"We finally have a Mayor and Speaker that gets it."
The horse and carriage industry has vowed to go to court if the City Council approves the bill.
Activists holding up posters with photographs depicting various accidents involving horse-drawn carriages.
Horses have largely disappeared from the Central Park landscape since the closing of the Claremont stables on West 89th Street in 2007.
Although once an integral part of the original 19th century Olmsted and Vaux design, the park's 4.25-mile bridle path are now mostly devoid of horses. They have instead been replaced with pedestrians, runners, cyclists and dogs.
A five-stall stable built for the mounted unit of the Parks Enforcement Patrol opened in 2011 just south of the Central Park Zoo.
The Village Voice - Dec. 2 2014 - By Tessa Stuart