When Bill de Blasio first ran for mayor of New York City, he promised to ban horse-drawn carriages “on day 1.”
Eight years later, with only six weeks left in office, Mr de Blasio is trying one last time to fulfill this promise.
His administration is developing legislation that will phase out the use of the carriages in Central Park and elsewhere and replace them with “show cars”, according to a series of internal town hall emails labeled “confidential” sent between the end of October and last week and reviewed by The New York Times.
The promise to ban horse-drawn carriages, along with an ultimately successful plan to implement universal kindergarten, was among a handful of major proposals that animated Mr. de Blasio’s successful mayoral committee. Mr. de Blasio and some proponents argue that it is inhumane to use horses for transportation in a modern city full of cars.
Now that the mayor is considering running for governor next year, he has returned to his core campaign questions: In an appearance on MSNBC Thursday morning, he proposed a full-time school nationwide, a vision he said would “revolutionize education in New York State. . “
Mr. de Blasio has not yet announced its plan to ban horse-drawn carriages, which would require city council approval, but it has quietly moved forward. In the emails, city officials said they aim to have the legislation ready by December 16, when the city council is expected to hold its last full meeting this year.
Danielle Filson, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said he had always wanted to ban horse-drawn carriages and that he hoped the city council would consider it again.
The mayor’s office has asked the Economic Development Corporation to enter into a contract with a consulting firm, Langan Engineering, to conduct an analysis of the proposal, focusing on its environmental, transportation and socio-economic impacts, according to emails. The company’s CEO did not respond to requests for comment.
It remains unclear whether there is an appetite in the city council to ban horse-drawn carriages. A spokeswoman for the council did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
City Hall emails do not define “show cars”, but proponents of banning the cars have previously pushed for them to be replaced by electric vehicles that look like old cars.
In April, New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets, the leading proponents of the ban, retained lobbying firm Blue Suit Strategies to pressure Mr. de Blasio to pursue a similar plan, shows city lobbying records. The organization pays the company $ 7,000 a month.
The group, known as NYCLASS, helped fund a campaign to overthrow the 2013 mayoral candidacy of Christine Quinn, then city council spokeswoman and Mr de Blasio’s rival, in part because she did not support a ban on horse-drawn carriages. The campaign was credited with helping to undermine Mrs Quinn’s candidacy, who was considered the early frontrunner.
In the ensuing years, NYCLASS pressured Mr. de Blasio to fulfill his promise. But efforts to pass legislation went nowhere, including in 2016, when the mayor failed to push through a bill that would have reduced the number of horses on city streets and limited them to Central Park.
The group has engaged in recent political efforts. This year, it supported a super PAC that ran ads targeting Andrew Yang’s mayoral campaign after Mr. Yang answered “no” to a questionnaire asking if he supported the effort “to strengthen welfare protection and raise standards of care for New York City’s horse-drawn carriages.”
Takeaways from the 2021 election
And in October, after a gruesome collision between a horse and a car, NYCLASS ran television and digital commercials worth about $ 200,000 calling for the removal of the industry.
Steve Nislick, the group’s co-founder, said New York should follow the example of Guadalajara, Mexico, which replaced horse-drawn carriages with electric vehicles.
“The only way these guys can make money is by abusing these animals,” said Mr. Nislick. “Why should it exist? Someone must give me the reason why it should exist.”
Drivers such as Christina Hansen deny that the horses are being abused, and note that the 68 licensed horse-drawn carriages constitute a local industry on which dozens of families depend.
“Here we are, in the midst of New York’s great recovery from the pandemic, the international tourists are coming back, Broadway is reopening, and they are coming back and taking a carriage,” said Mrs. Hansen, who has ridden a horse. towed carriage in New York for nine years, said Thursday morning, the rock-cut of horseshoes in the background.
“The Christmas carriage ride is a tradition in New York City,” she said. “And here you have Bill de Blasio playing the Grinch.”
Mrs Hansen also said that the riders took excellent care of their horses: “If there was anything wrong with what we did, I would not do it.”
But it has not done much to deter Mr Nislick and Mr de Blasio.
Mr. Nislick said through a spokesman that Mr. de Blasio had not asked him to help finance his probable bid for governor, and that Mr. Nislick had not donated to this campaign.