The animal welfare group that led the fight to ban Central Park’s horse-drawn carriages came out more strongly Wednesday in favor of compromise to reduce the number of working animals without retiring them all — a day after expressing only lukewarm approval.
“After careful consideration of the legislation, we support its passage to help protect the carriage horses from traffic and cruelty,” NYCLASS said in a statement posted to its Facebook page.
The City Council has scheduled a hearing Friday morning on the tentative plan to downsize the fleet of horses to 75 from 180 and keep them off busy streets by building a stable in Central Park by Oct. 1, 2018. The “agreement in concept” was announced late Sunday by Mayor Bill de Blasio, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Teamsters union leaders.
Other animal rights activists that came out as backers Wednesday included PETA, the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States.
NYCLASS, or New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets, had aggressively lobbied City Council members for a ban and helped de Blasio win City Hall in 2013 by running ads against his rival. The group said it holds out hope that the compromise bill will be updated to keep horses from working in extreme temperatures and beyond a certain age.
On Tuesday, it had expressed concerns that the bill didn’t go far enough to protect horses and said prohibition of carriage horse rides “must remain the ultimate goal.”
Another animal welfare group has not been won over. Friends of Animals is joining with park advocacy groups and pedicab drivers to hold a rally Thursday afternoon at City Hall protesting the bill.
Parks advocates have challenged de Blasio on giving public land to a private industry. Pedicab drivers, who under the bill would be limited to working above 85th Street to give carriage operators more business in the Central Park’s busier southern sector, said they had no seat at the negotiating table.
Christina Hansen, a carriage driver and spokeswoman for the industry, said Wednesday that NYCLASS members are “not the stakeholders here. It doesn’t affect their lives. It doesn’t affect their livelihoods.”
The drivers are still in negotiations about job protections and a guarantee the Central Park stable will eventually be built, she said.