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De Blasio readying push to ban horse-drawn carriages in Central Park

A carriage horse returns to the Clinton Park

A carriage horse returns to the Clinton Park Horse Stables on March 9, 2014. Credit: Charles Eckert

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday that legislation would be introduced soon paving "the pathway to an ultimate ban" of carriage horses from Central Park.

De Blasio, who last year made a campaign promise to ban horses from Central Park "within the first week on the job," said it's taken more than eight months because "it is a very complicated issue."

"That legislative debate is about to begin," de Blasio told reporters at an unrelated news conference in Manhattan.

"I think the notion is to go as far as we can go in terms of the pathway to an ultimate ban," the mayor said.

Last year, backers of banning horse-drawn carriages from Central Park -- a powerful coalition of animal-rights activists -- pumped money into opposing Christine Quinn, once the front-runner for mayor, because she opposed such a prohibition.

Earlier this week, a key member of the City Council, Councilman Rafael Espinal, declared he was opposed to the ban. Espinal is head of the Consumer Affairs Committee, where previous carriage-related bills have originated. City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who ultimately controls the flow of bills, said the legislative path was still being worked out.

John Eddy, a spokesman for the coalition pushing a ban, said the group "applauds the mayor's commitment to end the unsafe, abusive and inhumane carriage horse industry in New York City."

Demos Demopoulos, a leader of Local 553 of the Teamsters, the carriage drivers' union, pointed to organized labor's political clout and said he's confident that the legislation will die.

"It was my hope that there wouldn't be any at all but we knew that eventually it would come up," he said.

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