Liam Neeson has written an opinion piece for the NY Daily News blasting Mayor Bill de Blasio for his latest attack on the city’s carriage horses.
The Irish actor has been a long-time supporter of the carriage horse industry in Central Park.
On Friday, new city rules forced the buggies off 59th street, where drivers have picked up rides for over a hundred years, and into Central Park.
Neeson wrote: “I’m writing about Mayor de Blasio’s alarming attempt to destroy the most beloved industry in New York: the carriage-horse trade. It harkens back to a simpler, more innocent time and is a visual and even spiritual oasis in the city. As you surely know, years ago, the mayor, in an effort to pay back a real estate developer who infused his campaign with lots of cash, tried to ban this picturesque and iconic symbol of the city, so the developer could raze the state-of-the-art stables on the West Side and build yet another glass and steel skyscraper. That is what all this is about.”
“I publicly invited the mayor to inspect the stables, to show him that the horses are superbly well-cared-for and well-regulated. But while City Council members eagerly accepted my invitation, de Blasio refused to come.”
“In this new effort, he has instructed the Department of Transportation to dismantle historic Belgian block paving stones without consulting the Landmarks Preservation Commission beforehand, pushing the carriages off Central Park South and away from Grand Army Plaza and the passing foot traffic.
"This is yet another step in his endless death-by-a-thousand-cuts plan to go around the City Council, much the way President Trump is trying to go around Congress for his wall, and kill this 160-year-old vital part of New York's tourist industry.”
He added: “I’m a naturalized American citizen who came here from Northern Ireland, from an area which wasn’t officially listed as ‘urban’ until 1900. I grew up on a farm where plow horses are bred to pull wagons, as are the hearty steeds of Central Park. I’d wager that none of the demonstrators opposing this trade know the first thing about horses, and neither, clearly, does the DOT.
“Were the horses mistreated, I would be the first one to protest. In fact, I assumed that the DOT and other city agencies would listen to the experts in the carriage industry who said that this rule change would be bad for the horses, and stop this nonsense.”
Neeson concluded: “I’m a New Yorker. I live right off Central Park West and walk at least five days a week through the park when I can. It’s one of New York City’s treasures and it belongs to all of us — not just to the private political interests of Hizzoner. In order for the DOT to remove these Belgian block medians and move a water trough, there should have been a public process, including public hearings before the landmarks commission and all the surrounding Community Boards.
“The simple reason the city did not consult with the Community Boards and their constituents is because this is the mayor fulfilling a campaign promise to a handful of wealthy donors.
“Instead, the mayor is not only taking away the rights of carriage owners to operate their business; he’s taking away my rights and the rights of my neighbors and of all of New Yorkers to have a fair and proper process to ensure the protection of our landmarks.”
The NY Daily News reports that a group of hansom drivers are now suing the city to overturn the rule on the grounds the action should have been decided through City Council legislation, rather by an executive order from the mayor.