New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has finally put the horse before the cart when dealing with the Central Park horse carriage industry. At last he is given up the ghost and admits that his plan to ban the industry is in mothballs. His administration also approved a roughly eight percent fare hike for the drivers, in the process dissing the animal rights and real estate lobbyists who tried to end one of New York’s great traditions.
From day one of his mayoralty de Blasio had a strange obsession, determined to drive law abiding horse and carriage drivers off the streets and Central Park. Hundreds of jobs were at stake, many of the workers are Irish, some have had generations their family involved in the trade.
They were facing a bleak future, especially when de Blasio offered that they could drive electric cars instead, which was the equivalent of replacing the Mona Lisa with a Peanuts cartoon.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans and foreign visitors come to New York to experience a quintessential experience, one that has been present since the 19th century and the creation of Central Park in 1858.
Central Park made New York as surely as New York helped make Central Park. Smack bang in the middle of a thriving city, it is an oasis of calm and quiet, broken only by the sounds of horses’ hooves clattering.
But de Blasio knew better than the tens of thousands of supporters of the carriage drivers, not to mention the incredibly historical tradition he was destroying,
The alarm bell was sounded when the editorial pages of the Daily News -- and what a crusading newspaper that is these days -- began regularly horse whipping the mayor for even bringing up the issue. Liam Neeson jumped into the fight and was “taken” no prisoners as he lined up side by side with the drivers.
Putting workers on the unemployment line, sending dozens of horses into retirement and who knows what else became an abiding obsession with a mayor who hardly seemed to care as long as he got his way.
That included doing the bidding for powerful real estate interests who covet the valuable real estate space on the West Side where many of the horse are housed in large stables.
Then there were the animal rights protestors who demanded that horses never do what comes naturally to them, pull a car and jog along the equivalent of a country lane. Both groups were red with rage as all their schemes were thwarted.
Now de Blasio has cried uncle, and accepted the reality of the situation, telling a New York radio station last week that there are no plans at the current time to take the horses out of Central Park.
With the new fare increase the jobs are even more valuable to hold now, and a welcome boost for the drivers who have been tortured by the de Blasio administration’s zeroing in on their industry.
How shameful it is to think that the vista was almost snatched away by a mayor only too keen to do the special interest bidding of a small unrepresentative group that would have thrown hundreds of hard working members of the industry out of work.
Polls showed a clear majority in favor of keeping the horses despite efforts to cry cruelty and mismanagement by the critics. Such efforts were both erroneous and dishonest.
The horses get five weeks vacation as well as two vet visits a year and are among the most scrutinized animals in America. Some people in New York are not treated as well.
It is good to see de Blasio climb down from his high horse and return to his senses, but what took so long Mr. Mayor? You became a horse’s ass with your strange behavior on this issue.
The horses belong in New York. I'm not sure de Blasio does as the city mayor. Time will tell.