With New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio facing fierce opposition to his planned overhaul of the popular Central Park carriage horse ride system, a hearing on the plan was held by the New York City Council, but officials reportedly had a tough time answering questions about how the changes would work, the Associated Press reported. The plan would call for a slicing of the number of carriages in the park and house the horses in an expensive Central Park stable, something New Yorkers questioned on Friday.
Officials from de Blasio's office said they couldn't definitively name where the stable would be, but described a building on the 86th Street Transverse was a likely candidate, DNAinfo.com reported. Officials also could not say how many jobs they estimated would be lost in the carriage horse industry if the plan went through.
New York City doesn't have plans for compensating drivers who might lose their jobs, the officials added. Council members expressed trepidation over supporting a project so few details were given to.
“You’re asking us to vote on something not knowing in the park where the stables will go,” New York Council member Mark Levine said according to DNAinfo.com. “They could go in the middle of the great lawn, in theory.”
Animal welfare activists have expressed anger over the project, as have pedicab drivers, who are angry that the overhaul would bar them from most of Central Park to avoid competition. Park advocates have expressed concern about whether building the stables would be the best use of the park’s space and how much they would cost taxpayers.
“This is an abuse of power, plain and simple,” Geoffrey Croft of the New York City Park Advocates said at City Hall on Thursday, according to the New York Daily News. “The mayor couldn’t deliver on a campaign promise, so now he wants the taxpayers to pay off his campaign debt to the tune of at least $25 million, and give away public parkland to a private business.”
During his campaign, de Blasio said he promised to end the carriage horse ride system completely during his first year in office, Capital New York reported. Animal rights activists have attacked the plan — which would allow for 95 horses instead of the current 180 — as not helping the animals’ welfare.
— Josh Robin (@joshrobin) January 22, 2016
“Carriage horses deserve more than a compromise,” Edita Birnkrant of the group Friends of Animals has said according to the Daily News. “The wellbeing of the horses is lost in this compromise bill. It only serves the carriage horse industry at the city’s expense.”
Croft has said he would be surprised if he did not file a lawsuit against the city, also arguing that because Central Park is designated parkland, a private stable wouldn’t be allowed. Firing back, de Blasio has said the Parks Department would still have ownership of the site, so there would be no issue. A vote on the plan has not been scheduled.