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De Blasio says he's pushed horse-carriage ban as far as he can

Mayor Bill de Blasio talks to the media

Mayor Bill de Blasio talks to the media on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, at City Hall. Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

Mayor Bill de Blasio Wednesday appeared to shift the responsibility of securing a ban of Central Park's horse-drawn carriage industry to the animal-welfare activists who have long pressured him to act.

"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.

The mayor spoke to host Brian Lehrer in a wide-ranging interview that covered the 2016 presidential race, New York City's rising cost of housing, his universal pre-K and affordable-housing initiatives, homelessness, his fight with Uber and more.

De Blasio offered his warmest praise yet for Hillary Rodham Clinton. While still holding off from endorsing her, he commended his former boss' "increasingly compelling vision" on immigration reform and other issues.

In April, when Clinton announced her second bid for the White House, de Blasio told NBC's "Meet the Press" that he wants "to see a vision" before making a choice. Many other New York Democratic officials have endorsed Clinton.

On Wednesday, de Blasio contrasted Democrat Clinton to another New Yorker running for president, Donald Trump.

"Look at juxtaposition with Trump, who is literally trying to undermine fundamental constitutional rights on things like birthright citizenship," de Blasio said. Automatic citizenship for children born in the United States is "part of our Constitution that I think has been a matter of consensus for generations," he said.

The mayor said the billionaire real estate mogul, who currently leads polls of the crowded Republican field, should be taken seriously.

"I say this particularly as a progressive, when you take conservatives lightly, you end up getting burned a lot of the time," he said.

Clinton and Trump's campaigns did not respond to requests for comment.

De Blasio's remarks on the horse-drawn carriage ban -- which he had vowed as a candidate to immediately enact upon taking office in January 2014 -- irked some activists who have been aggressively lobbying the council.

"The fact is the industry has a lot of support in the City Council and among the populace," de Blasio said.

Edita Birnkrant of Friends of Animals' New York City office noted that de Blasio still voices support for a ban. But she called his change in tone "frustrating" and "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. "He brought this to the national spotlight and campaigned on it. Backing off is the wrong way to go."

NYCLASS, or the New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets, said in a statement it believes there are enough votes in the council to pass a ban.

"We are prepared for the bill to be voted on immediately as we believe we would be successful," the group said.


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