A compromise deal was struck between New York’s City Council and operators of Central Park’s horse-drawn carriages, rescuing the iconic New York industry from a long-threatened ban Sunday night. The deal would reportedly see the number of licensed horse carriages reduce to 110 by the end of the year from the 180 operating currently, local media reported.
The newly-agreed upon deal also limits the horses’ work timings to 9 hours in a 24-hour window and mandates setting up a stable in Central Park so that the carriages do not have to travel from their existing stables located on Manhattan’s West Side. The deal is a far cry from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s promise to end the popular carriage rides through the park on “day one” of his administration, 18 months ago.
However, curbing the horse carriages — which are popular with tourists and couples — proved to be a much bigger political challenge than de Blasio bargained for, as the proposed legislation lacks the support of the city’s policymakers.
“As far as I know, the bill only has seven sponsors. Even the most controversial pieces of legislation have more than that.” Ritchie Torres, a Bronx councilman who doesn’t support the ban, told the Wall Street Journal last year. In August, de Blasio publicly acknowledged, on the Brian Lehrer show, that he did not have enough support on the issue in the City Council.
“The fact is, the industry has a lot of support in the City Council, and among the populace,” de Blasio reportedly said.
While a small industry involving only a few hundred workers, horse drawn carriages have been at the center of a growing public debate pitting animal-rights activists against industry lobbyists and carriage driver unions.
Though yet to become a binding legislation, Sunday’s agreement reportedly invited a strong dismissal from animal rights groups such as NYClass which have demanded nothing short of a complete ban on the trade.
A bill to get the carriages off the streets and offer the carriage drivers license to operate vintage-looking taxis outside of Manhattan was introduced in the City Council in 2014 but was met with derision from the horse carriage owners.