Horse-drawn carriage drivers, pedicab operators, parks advocates and animal welfare groups all bridled Tuesday at Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to confine the carriage industry to Central Park — each citing a different reason.
The bill intended as a compromise will get a City Council hearing Friday. A draft was released Tuesday, calling for reducing the number of working horses from 180 to 110 by Dec. 1 and eventually to 75 by Oct. 1, 2018, the deadline by which the city must build a stable in the park.
A bill introduced 13 months ago to phase out the horses entirely failed to gather enough support.
The mayor, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and unions that represent the carriage drivers announced late Sunday that they had reached an “agreement in concept,” but on Tuesday the drivers said it was not a done deal.
Hoping to influence the council, carriage drivers gathered reporters at a stable on Manhattan’s west side to say de Blasio’s word on providing a new home for their horses isn’t enough.
“Why should we trust Mayor de Blasio on this? He’s been against us since Day One,” 28-year industry veteran Ian McKeever said, referring to the mayor’s vow to eliminate the industry.
They also want more job protection. Civil rights attorneys Ron Kuby and Norman Siegel said they were ready to take legal action on the drivers’ behalf.
The drivers resented characterization of the City Hall proposal as a deal, saying negotiations are ongoing. Mark-Viverito said the parties have “arrived a point of agreement.”
Asked about keeping the promise of a Central Park stable, the speaker said, “We have skin in the game, and we have to make sure that our word is followed through on.”
But Geoffrey Croft of the watchdog group NYC Parks Advocates questioned how the city could give “public property to a private enterprise.”
Also Tuesday, dozens of pedicab operators rallied outside City Hall to denounce part of the bill that would prohibit them from soliciting business south of 85th Street. They said there are no tourists in Central Park’s northern reaches.
Garth Burton, a pedicab operator for seven years, said de Blasio was trying to appease carriage drivers by giving them a “monopoly” at his group’s expense.
De Blasio had won over animal welfare activists when he ran for mayor by declaring the carriage horse industry was “inhumane,” but Friends of Animals and the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages have said they’re mad that the mayor won’t retire all the horses.
“This compromise bill was very misguided and a total betrayal,” said Edita Birnkrant of Friends of Animals.
NYCLASS, the animal rights group that has aggressively lobbied council members and helped de Blasio to his 2013 victory by campaigning against a key rival, said it believes the plan is the “right direction” but wants more protections for horses and ultimately, a ban.