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Bill de Blasio praises carriage horse deal, but still wants ban

A horse drawn carriage exits Central Park, Monday,

A horse drawn carriage exits Central Park, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in New York. Photo Credit: Louis Lanzano

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday praised an agreement to place new limits on carriage horses but conceded it falls short of his onetime promise and ultimate aim — a total ban on the industry.

“It’s not everything I wanted. It was a lot of give and take,’’ de Blasio said.

The “agreement in concept” announced Sunday night by de Blasio, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Teamsters leaders representing carriage drivers would reduce the number of horses — now about 180 — to 110 as of Dec. 1 and 75 by Oct. 1, 2018, when new stables would open in Central Park. The agreement would limit rides for hire to the park.

Final details are being worked out, and a bill will be presented to the City Council “very soon,” the mayor said.

De Blasio said the new arrangements would be safer for drivers and horses by moving them away from motor vehicle traffic.

“We think this will be a solid change for the city. We need to get horses off the streets. It’s not fair and humane for our drivers and horses,” the mayor said at a news conference after an unrelated event in Brooklyn. “My ultimate belief is that they should not be in the city,” he added.

NYCLASS, a group that led the push for a ban and won de Blasio’s support when he ran for mayor in 2013, withheld comment until full details of the compromise are known.

Elizabeth Forel, president of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages, said the agreement could worsen conditions for horses “because all the abuses will now be within the park and not so noticeable.” The drivers dispute allegations of abuses.

Karen Hinton, a mayoral spokeswoman, said job training assistance may be provided to drivers but “the city does not anticipate any job loss.” A message seeking explanation on how that would be avoided wasn’t immediately answered.

The mayor also gave no details on the cost of building new stables in the park to replace those on Manhattan’s west side.

Drivers lined up on Central Park South Monday greeted the deal with a mix of caution and fear.

“It’s a message that says the carriages are here to stay,” said Christina Hansen, 35, of Hell’s Kitchen, a driver for more than three years. “This is going to be complicated, but if we can make this work in a way that takes care of our horses and drivers, it can be very good,” she said.

But Paul McDaid, 51, of Woodside, Queens, a driver for 28 years, said, “I’m worried about losing my job. We all are.”

Worried too are drivers of pedicabs. To make the deal more palatable for carriage drivers, the agreement would ban pedicabs in the park south of the 85th Street Transverse starting June 1.

“This is a monopoly for the horse carriages,” said Laramire Flick, former president of the NYC Pedicab Association. Gregg Zuman, co-founder of the group, estimated there are 100 to 200 of the pedal-powered vehicles in the park in the warmer months.

Pedicab driver Sylvester Isibor, 48, said, “It’s going to be bad for us. The tourists really don’t go to 85th Street. Also 85th Street is very hilly, so it will be difficult for us to ride.”


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