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Ban on horse-drawn carriages to be introduced next week, councilman says

Protests in favor of a carriage-horse ban in

Protests in favor of a carriage-horse ban in April 2014. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

Legislation to remove horse-drawn carriages from New York City streets will be introduced in the City Council next Monday, the lead sponsor, Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Queens), said Monday.

It would phase out the industry by May 2016, when licenses for carriage operation expire.

"The morality of a nation can be judged by the way society treats its animals," Dromm said. Horses "don't belong" on congested, polluted streets and the many crashes and horse injuries warrant an end to the industry, he said.

The ban was a campaign pledge last year by Mayor Bill de Blasio, who calls the carriages "inhumane." He had sought immediate action but revised his target to the end of the year.

The proposal prohibits carriages throughout the city, but permits them on film sets or in parades.

It would offer carriage drivers jobs as green-taxi drivers, waiving licensing fees valued at between $4,000 and $6,000. It also would offer jobs training in other professions.

Dromm said he is confident the bill will have the 26 City Council votes it needs to pass.

Councilman Rafael Espinal (D-Brooklyn), chairman of the consumer affairs committee, where past industry bills have originated, opposes a ban and says drivers' jobs must be protected. Most of his 50 colleagues are "still undecided," Espinal said.

A council vote may not come for six months because an environmental review must be conducted. Committee hearings may also be held on the bill.

The bill, in its current form, does not mention the vintage-style electric cars that supporters of a ban say can alternately employ carriage drivers and ferry tourists. It does not mention horse-mounted police units.

The fight over a ban has played out all year in heated confrontations at City Hall, with animal-rights groups and organized-labor groups facing off and lobbying lawmakers.

Celebrites have also weighed in. Former "Biggest Loser" trainer Jillian Michaels advocated on behalf of the horses and action film star Liam Neeson visited a stable to show that the horses are well-treated.

Teamsters Joint Council 16 said the 300 full- and part-time drivers it represents would be denied a livelihood. "Our members are horse people," union President George Miranda said. "It is all they have ever done, and all they want to do. They aren't interested in driving an imaginary electric car or taking a job from a cabdriver."

A Quinnipiac University poll last month found 63 percent of city voters say de Blasio should not ban horse-drawn carriages.

Allie Feldman, executive director of New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, And Safe Streets said, "This is the right creative solution that benefits all New Yorkers by adding jobs while also ending an unsafe and inhumane industry."

"We think it's time to end the horse carriages in the city, and we're going to act on it," de Blasio said Monday.

A spokesman for City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said she is supportive of a ban.

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