Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday that he will rally support for a ban on horse-drawn carriages by personally lobbying members of the City Council, which is expected to vote on the proposal by next spring.
"We'll begin the process of talking through with council members why we think it's important for the future of the city to get this right, and also engaging in a public dialogue," he said at an unrelated event in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.
De Blasio has spearheaded the effort to remove horse-drawn carriages from city streets, a campaign promise that last year earned him financial backing from animal rights groups. The mayor, who admitted that he was "dubious" of a ban years ago, has called the industry "inhumane."
Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Queens) said he will introduce a bill Monday to phase out the industry by May 2016, when carriage-operating licenses expire, and offer carriage drivers alternate jobs as green-taxi drivers. Dromm said he expects he can secure the 26 votes he needs to pass the bill after an environmental review and committee hearings.
A ban opponent, Councilman Rafael Espinal (D-Brooklyn), chairs the Consumer Affairs Committee where past horse-drawn carriage regulations have originated. He said he wants the drivers' livelihoods protected and believes the majority of his colleagues either reject a ban or are undecided.
De Blasio made clear that he will help persuade the undecided. "I have a lot of confidence that common sense will win the day here," he said.
The bill now makes no mention of the vintage-style electric cars that some animal rights groups want to replace the carriages, but de Blasio said he has not ruled them out.
Dromm and bill co-sponsor Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Manhattan) spoke Tuesday at a City Hall rally alongside New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets, or NYCLASS. De Blasio greeted the activists before the event began.
Dromm criticized council colleagues who have said there are more important issues to focus on. "It's about the life and death of these horses . . . and if someone thinks that's silly or an embarrassment, I say shame on them," he said.
A fight over the ban may pit the mayor against the organized labor groups he's aligned with on other issues. George Miranda, president of Teamsters Joint Council 16, which represents the 300 full- and part-time carriage drivers, said they "aren't interested in driving an imaginary electric car or taking a job from a cabdriver."
--With Ivan Pereira