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Editorial: NYC council must say no to carriage ban

In this Dec. 31, 2013 file photo, passengers

In this Dec. 31, 2013 file photo, passengers enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride near Central Park on New Year's Eve day in New York. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio seeks to end horse-drawn-carriage rides in New York City, but carriage drivers say it will eliminate a rare outlet for surplus horses pouring out of the farming and racing industries and send horses to the slaughterhouse. (AP) Credit: AP

A horse-carriage ride in Central Park is one of New York City's iconic attractions. Unfortunately, maybe not for much longer.

Nearly a year into his mayoralty, Bill de Blasio is putting the final touches on a measure that would chase this industry out of the city. That's something the mayor had promised to do on Day 1 of his reign. So why didn't he? Possibly because the idea makes so little sense -- except perhaps as a tip of the hat to animal-rights advocates who helped pony up a key $1-million ad buy attacking former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a key rival in last year's mayoral primary.

De Blasio's plan would still cause about 300 carriage drivers and support workers to lose their jobs. It would hack off New Yorkers -- who oppose the ban by a 2-to-1 majority. And it would disappoint tourists.

But de Blasio has dropped a sugar lump into the deal.

To make life easier for displaced drivers, the city would offer to put them on the fast track to operate green taxis in the outer boroughs and upper Manhattan.

That's better than nothing -- but it's still not enough to cushion the blow of destroying a popular New York City enterprise for no discernible public reason.

True, the formidable animal-rights lobby says horses should be banned from Central Park on grounds of cruelty alone. But that argument quickly fails. Animal cruelty? A 2010 city law stipulates that carriage horses must get five weeks of vacation a year in places with green pastures and plenty to eat. They cannot work when temperatures are above 90 degrees or below 18. And only horses between 5 and 26 years old are even eligible for employment in the city.

At the moment, it looks as if about half of the City Council is undecided. A vote on the plan -- which would outlaw the industry by May 31, 2016 -- isn't foreseen until sometime next year.

The council must tell de Blasio no. New Yorkers -- not to mention the rest of the world -- like the carriage horses. They add a touch of charm to a frantic and fractious place. Why run off a good thing?