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Bill de Blasio urges animal rights activists to 'go get the votes' in City Council to secure horse-drawn carriage ban

Horse-drawn carriages take riders around Central Park in

Horse-drawn carriages take riders around Central Park in Manhattan on April 28, 2014. Photo Credit: AP

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday shifted the responsibility of securing a ban of Central Park's horse-drawn carriage industry on the animal rights 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 interview, "and solidify the support in the City Council, so we can make this change."

The council members have a "wide range of views," de Blasio noted.

The Democrat, as a mayoral candidate in 2013, promised an immediate end to the carriages and the "inhumane" treatment of the horses. He renewed the vow upon taking office in January 2014 and later extended his target date to within a year. Twenty months into his tenure, the proposed ban still has neither been debated in City Council committees nor come to the floor for a vote.

City councilmen Daniel Dromm (D-Queens) and Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Manhattan) introduced legislation to end the industry last December and a review of the environmental impact of a ban has been ongoing.

Dozens of advocates for a ban -- including NYCLASS, or New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets -- were lobbying lawmakers in person for their votes at each full meeting of the City Council until this past spring.

Their tactics backfired in some cases.

Councilwoman Debi Rose (D-Staten Island) in July sided with the carriage drivers and labor leaders who say the 300 part- and full-time jobs must be preserved, blaming over-aggressive NYCLASS lobbying. She sarcastically thanked the group for the battery of tweets, Facebook messages, emails, mailers and phone calls, saying, "They certainly helped me to make up my mind."

Then last month, when hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons voiced his support of a ban by comparing the treatment of animals to the Holocaust and slavery, undecided Councilman David Greenfield (D-Brooklyn) -- the grandchild of Holocaust survivors -- said Simmons wasn't helping ban proponents' case.

NYCLASS members signaled their impatience with the mayor at the Simmons event by wielding signs that read, "18 months & waiting, Mayor de Blasio."

De Blasio, whose mayoral bid was boosted by NYCLASS donors who financed a campaign against his rival Christine Quinn, has said he wants the ban enacted legislatively.

"The fact is the industry has a lot of support in the City Council and among the populace," he said on "The Brian Lehrer Show." "I believe it's a matter of time fundamentally" before the industry is banned, he said.

A Quinnipiac University poll last January found 63 percent of New York City voters believe de Blasio should not ban the carriages.

De Blasio said again Wednesday that he personally does not support horse-drawn carriages.

"Horse carriages don't belong on the streets of a major city," he said. "It's not fair to the horses. It's inhumane. It's not fair to drivers. It's not fair to anybody."


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