Liam Neeson has blasted New York Mayor de Blasio for failing to accept his invitation to attend a tour of the stables that house Central Park carriage horses on Sunday.
The Irish actor, currently number one at the box office with "Non Stop," hosted 12 members of the City Council on the tour as he fights for the survival of the iconic Central Park horse drawn carriages. Over 300 face the loss of their jobs.
Hollywood star Neeson stated “He should have manned up and come. I’m disappointed he’s not here.”
There was a massive media presence. De Blasio wants the horses off the streets but workers, most of whom are Irish-born, say the horses are not abused and they face the unemployment line.
They claim lucrative real estate interests are really behind the move to get the horses out of the stables in prime locations.
A January Quinnipiac University poll found that about 61 percent of voters said the mayor should abandon his pledge to end the industry.
Neeson had invited all 51 council members to the Clinton Park Stables on W. 52nd St. where 78 carriage horses bed down.
He wanted to show that the horses are treated humanely in a bid to derail the mayor’s planned ban on the industry.
The campaign’s highest profile supporter added, “These horses are well cared for.
“It’s a connection with our past, it’s a connection with our history. And it has to be said – the great white elephant in the room – four prime locations on the West Side of New York that realtors must be salivating to get their hands on.”
“I’ve been walking in the streets of Central Park for a few hours, five days a week, for 20 years,” Neeson said.
“I know some of the drivers, and I’ve seen the joy these tourists get. We can’t put a dollar amount on what that does for the tourist industry.”
The “Schindler’s List” star was flanked by about 100 carriage drivers and Teamsters Union members at the Clinton Park Stables on Manhattan’s West Side.
“This is an industry that’s been here since before Abraham Lincoln’s first inauguration,” said Neeson, an outspoken supporter of the controversial business.
“It’s a connection with our past. It’s a connection with our history.”
Mayor de Blasio said on Sunday that he does plan to visit the stables.
He told reporters, “I’m firm about the fact that we have to make this move.
“The reason I want to visit the stables and will do it when the schedule allows is because we want to work with the folks who operate those horse carriages and get them new opportunities in other types of related work.
“We want to make sure we’re listening to their concerns as we do it, but I’m clear about where we need to go.”
However, Neeson made hay with de Blasio’s electric car idea according to the paper.
He said, “The mayor wants to replace them with electric cars. That’s exactly what New York needs, more cars. This experiment has been tried with electric cars in San Francisco – failed abysmally.”
Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Queens) is backing the drivers. He said, “I’m a progressive, so I’m not looking to put 350 families out on the street.”
Republican Minority Leader Vincent Ignizio of Staten Island said he remains torn on the issue.
Ignizio said, “The horses clearly seem calm and like it’s their home. If there are legitimate concerns regarding the safety of the animals, then let’s bring them out and have a conversation about a compromise plan.”
Advocacy group NYCLASS, the force behind the ban, said the stables’ conditions aren’t the primary reason to ban the carriages.
A statement from the group said: “It’s inhumanity of horses working in dangerous midtown traffic. Horses are easily spooked, and forcing them to work in loud, congested Lincoln Tunnel traffic is cruel and unsafe.”
“We are exploring options to determine the smoothest, most fair and equitable way to transition out the use of inhumane horse carriages, transition in the job-saving electric antique replica cars for current carriage drivers. The commitment of Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Mark-Viverito is unwavering, and we look forward to working closely with them and other officials to get the horses off the streets in a way that is humane for all."
Before the stable visit, Neeson’s fight to save Central Park’s iconic horse drawn carriages received the backing of "Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon.
Fallon told Neeson during an interview, “Horse and carriage is kind of a tradition. You go around Central Park.”