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Animal welfare group turns on de Blasio over Central Park horse carriages

Activists with the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages

Activists with the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages and other animal rights supporters hold a candlelight vigil at Central Park South and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan on Friday, Aug. 28, 2015. Photo Credit: CS Muncy

An animal-welfare group says it has lost faith in Mayor Bill de Blasio's long-standing vow to ban Central Park's horse-drawn carriage industry.

The Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages "is very disappointed that Mayor de Blasio reneged on his promise to shut down the inhumane and unsafe horse-drawn carriage trade," the group said in a statement.

About 70 protesters held electric candles Friday night at a silent vigil near the carriage drivers' "hack line" on Central Park South for horses that have died and those that are still working.

"I think the mayor is afraid," said protester Stacy Szwczyk, 38, of Manhattan. "He is being bullied by the Teamsters union and the City Council."

"I'm furious and upset. I can't understand why these horse-drawn carriages are still allowed. I see these horses in the winter in all kinds of weather and in the summer heat. The horses just don't belong here," she said. "It's a disconnect . . . The tourists can find something else to do like take a pedicab ride."

Another protester, coalition member Elizabeth Forel, said the mayor "reneged on his promise. We worked on his campaign and donated money."

De Blasio -- boosted in the 2013 mayoral campaign after New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets attacked his then-leading opponent, Christine Quinn, because she supported carriage drivers -- promised when he took office in January 2014 to immediately ban the industry.

But last week, he appeared to shift the responsibility of securing a ban to activists. "What I say to every advocate is: You already have my vote. Go get the votes in the City Council," he said in a WNYC radio interview.

De Blasio "ultimately did not lobby the City Council. Instead, he blamed activists for not doing enough," the coalition said.

Other opponents of the horse-drawn carriage industry have been less critical of the mayor, though they expressed impatience. Edita Birnkrant of Friends of Animals last week noted that de Blasio still voices support for a ban, but she called his change in tone "disappointing."

"It sort of can feel like a cop-out to say 'Now you get the council' because we have been doing that," she said.

With Maria Alvarez


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