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De Blasio carriage horse deal crumbles

A carriage horse enters Central Park at 59th

A carriage horse enters Central Park at 59th Street and 7th Avenue, on Feb. 4, 2016. Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

A compromise months in the making over the future of Central Park’s horse-drawn carriages collapsed Thursday after the drivers’ union bucked the bill on the eve of a City Council vote.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would work “toward a new path” to help satisfy — to some degree — a campaign promise he made to animal-rights advocates to ban the industry, but did not elaborate. The agreement would have restricted the horses to the park, taking them off city streets.

Council majority leader Jimmy Van Bramer said the fact that people’s livelihoods are at stake, among other hurdles, will make it difficult for de Blasio, whatever his approach.

“It’s unclear to me what the path forward might represent and look like,” the Queens lawmaker said, urging his fellow Democrat to “turn the page and move on.”

De Blasio and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito issued statements saying they had negotiated with the Teamsters Joint Council 16 in “good faith.”

Later, after huddling in his vehicle outside City Hall for about 15 minutes to consult with aides while reporters hovered, de Blasio accused the union of going back on its word.

“We had a good faith agreement with them that was worked on for many weeks, and they didn’t keep to their agreement,” he said.

Union president George Miranda killed the deal and forced Mark-Viverito to cancel Friday’s vote with a morning statement that read in part, “With the legislation now finalized, our members are not confident that it provides a viable future for their industry.”

A City Hall official said the administration, before the Teamsters backed out, had secured roughly 35 Council votes — out of a total 51 — to back the compromise. It would have halved the number of working horses to 95 and used $25 million in city funds to create new stables in the park.

Carriage medallion owners this week came out against the bill, breaking with the union. Drivers said they had to reject the timeline in de Blasio’s plan, which would have cut the fleet of horses two years before the deadline to build their stables.

Carriage drivers who came to City Hall to fight the bill instead were celebrating.

“You can’t reason with somebody who doesn’t want horses here at all,” said Christina Hansen, a driver and spokeswoman for the industry.

Pedicab operators who would have been forced out of the tourist-rich southern end of Central park rallied in elation. “It just didn’t make sense,” said pedicab driver Madison Reyes, 30, of Westchester. “Our livelihoods, our lives have value.”

NYCLASS, an animal rights group which helped boost de Blasio to victory in 2013 and whose members have funded a nonprofit backing his agenda, blasted Mark-Viverito for the “cold-hearted delay” on curbing the carriages.

“We have a sensible plan to protect the horses, and it deserves a vote,” founders Steve Nislick and Wendy Neu said in a statement. “But instead the speaker is allowing the Teamsters to call the shots and allow the horses to suffer.”

-- With Rebecca Harshbarger

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