Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Hearing For Mayor’s Controversial Carriage Industry Relocation Plan In Central Park Scheduled For Friday

The pedicab industry protested this afternoon outside the gates of City Hall.  The Mayor's plan would prohibit the group from working south of 85th Street. (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on image to enlarge

By Geoffrey Croft

The Mayor’s controversial plan to move and pay for the relocation of the horse carriage industry to a Parks Department owned building in Central Park is scheduled for this Friday at 10:00am.

“The bill would reduce the number of licenses for horses used in the operation of horse-drawn carriages and the number of hours a horse-drawn carriage may operate during a 24-hour period, establish a stable in Central Park, limit the operation of horse-drawn carriages to Central Park, and prohibit the operation of pedicabs below the 85th Street Transverse in Central Park,” according to the language of the bill.

The Parks Department would be responsible for establishing a stable for carriage horses within Central Park by October 1, 2018. The penality for not acheiving that goal on time? 

The Parks Commissioner would be responslble for submitting "a report to the mayor and the council stating the reasons why and providing an updated timeline for the establishment of such stable," the bill reads.  

Unlike other commercial businesses which operate on public park land this one is expected to bypass the competitive bidding process normally required to secure public park land for private commercial uses including consessions. 

The city will attempt to claim it does not need to get State Alienation approval because it is already an existing “park use" according to a city source.

The De blasio administration did not consult with the Parks Commissioner or the Central Park Conservancy, the non-profit group that manages the park, before devising the plan.  

Outstanding questions include whether or not the carriage industry would be required to pay the city rent.  

The hastily drawn up plan has come under attack on all sides of the issue including animal rights activists,  the horse carriage drivers and stable owners, and park advocates.

Proposed new home for the carriage horse industry in Central Park. The Park’s Department’s 86th Street Shops building.

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito took a swipe at critics, including Central Park Conservancy founder Betsy Barlow Rogers who questioned relocating the stables to a city-owned Parks Department building and giving it to a private business.  

“It is like building a palace for a concessionaire, ” Ms. Rogers told the New York Times. 

The plan, she said, “absolutely must be opposed.”

"At the end of the day, the city owns the park. The city owns this facility,”  Melissa Mark-Viverito shot back.

“And the city is making a decision to invest in this facility. And there are those who may think that they own the park. Right? The Central Park Conservancy, understood, has a contract with the city of New York. But the park and Central Park is city property and the mayor does make decisions as to what the priorities (are) for this city. We had conversations and we've arrived at a point of agreement," the Speaker said. 

“The well-being of horses is lost in this compromise bill—it only serves the carriage horse industry at the city’s expense,” says Edita Birnkrant, Campaign Director of Friends of Animals.    

The pedicab industry held well attended rally at City Hall this afternoon.   

The horse carriage drivers and stable owners held a rally this morning to say they would not consider the Mayor’s plan to move their business inside Central Park until the stables they are being promised in the park are complete.

Councilman Mark Levine, chairman of the Parks Committee, said the deal was probably the best compromise that could have been reached because the city was spending too much time on it. 

“This matter has occupied a disproportionate amount of the time and energy of the council for the past two years,” Mr. Levine told the Wall Street Journal. 

“Everyone is going be relieved that we can focus our attention on other issues that are facing the council,” he said.

Mr. Levine walked quickly past pedicab workers protesting outside the gates of City Hall this afternoon. 

This is the second time in a month that the City Council is supporting a plan to give away public parkland to a private business at the tax-payers expense.

Last month they voted to give away 47.5 acres of public parkland in Flushing Meadow’s Corona Park to one of the country’s most politically connected developers to build a mega mall.  

Read More:

Metro NY - January 19, 2016 - Angy Altamirano 

Newsday - January 19, 2016 -  By Emily Ngo  

A Walk In The Park - January 14, 2016 - By Geoffrey Croft

Queens Chronicle - January 14, 2016 - By  Geoffrey Croft


  1. Councilman Levine sounds like he's saying the deal sucks but that finding a way for the mayor to finally placate a handful of wealthy campaign contributors is more important than park space, millions of taxpayer dollars and the jobs of pedicab guys. He's half-right.

  2. Can you imagine saying to a reporter, we are tired of dealing with an issue so we are going to sell you out. That’s the rocket scientist Mark Levine.

    Levine and his good buddy Melissa Mark Viverito, who can’t help putting her foot in her mouth, have no idea what they are doing and that’s the truth.

    Wasn’t she the chair of the Parks Committee before Levine? And she appointed him?

    A deal where everyone loses. That is this administration’s idea of a compromise.