Supporters of the horse and carriage trade in Central Park rallied at City Hall on Monday, the same day as the City Council published legislation that would eliminate the industry and its over 300 jobs by June 1, 2016.
Those in favor of the ban also took to City Hall on Monday morning, and expressed confidence that the bill championed by Mayor Bill de Blasio to take the horses off the streets would pass when it comes to a vote sometime next year.
Stephen Malone, spokesperson for the horse and carriage industry, was buoyed by the public response to the rally which was attended by more than 300 supporters, including those on the City Council planning on casting a vote against the ban.
“Our rally was nothing short of amazing,” Malone, a second generation carriage driver whose father is from Co. Louth, told the Irish Voice.
“We would have had more people but many were kept out for some reason which we are curious about. But what we’re really happy about is that on the day the bill was introduced, our rally was the bigger story.”
Bill number 0573-2014, available to read on the City Council website, was introduced by Council Members Daniel Dromm of Queens and Ydanis Rodriguez from upper Manhattan, who is also the chair of the council’s Committee on Transportation which the bill has been referred to for further study.
The bill reads in part, “As of June first, two thousand sixteen, it shall be unlawful to operate a horse-drawn vehicle in the city of New York or offer rides to the public on a vehicle drawn or pulled by a carriage horse. Notwithstanding the preceding sentence, horse-drawn vehicles may be permitted pursuant to a parade, special event or filming permit under conditions imposed by the agency issuing the permit and where the street or location permitted is otherwise closed to regular vehicular traffic. The horse and vehicle must be transported by another appropriate vehicle or vehicles to and from the site of the parade, special event or filming location.”
Malone says he and his fellow drivers and supporters are more than ready for the fight to save their livelihoods.
“We’re moving into the next phase, and I’m glad. This needs to be settled,” he said.
“We’re getting more support all the time. What we’ll be doing now is educating members of the council who are undecided. We want everyone to see what we do and how we do it, and how much we love our horses, before they cast a vote.”
The holiday season has so far been a busy one, Malone says, bolstered by the many tourists who flock to Manhattan and to the horses in particular.
“Not one of them can believe that the city wants to eliminate us. Not one,” Malone says.
“I tell them that we’re not going to go down without a fight. No one is going to take our horses from us.”
A vote on the bill is expected in May or June. Those in support of the ban, led by the activist group NYCLASS, say the bill’s success is inevitable, even though many members of the council remain undecided.
“It feels awesome,” Allie Feldman, executive director of NYCLASS,” told The New York Times on Monday.
The Times once again editorialized against the ban on Monday, urging de Blasio to “dump the bill. Keep the horses.” The piece also questioned why the New York Police Department horses, “which have tougher jobs than carriage horses,” would still be permitted to remain on the job.
The major New York media outlets – the Times, New York Daily News and New York Post – are united in their position against the ban, “which must be a first, to get all the papers to agree on something,” Malone said.
Other prominent horse supporters include Liam Neeson, who issued a statement last week that said in part, “Deciding to strip these hardworking New Yorkers of their livelihoods in the dark of night is unconscionable, undermining their stability and future.”
Fox News personality and New York talk radio host Geraldo Rivera has also been vocal in his support. “New York Mayor di Blasio must tell us whether sad decision to abolish horse drawn carriages in Central Park is based on compassion or just payback,” Rivera tweeted on Tuesday.
Another show of support for the horse and carriage industry is planned for Monday, December 15 at 5 p.m. in front of the Ritz Carlton on 50 Central Park South.