New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio hasn’t exactly endeared himself to the Irish American community since taking up residence at City Hall in January.
The mayor said he won’t march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade on March 17 because gay groups cannot participate with their own banners. He declined to take part in the Rockaway parade earlier this month because he said it excluded gays, even though that’s not the case. Let’s not forget the heavily Irish Rockaway community was devastated by and continues to recover from Hurricane Sandy, so surely a visit from the new mayor would have been a welcome boost.
De Blasio, unlike his counterpart in Boston, Martin Walsh, showed no interest at all in brokering some sort of compromise between New York City’s parade organizers and the gay community.
Okay, it’s not part of his job description, but you would think that he might want to involve himself in bringing together the two opposing sides. Given that the St. Patrick’s Day parade pumps millions into the city’s economy, de Blasio missed an opportunity to show real leadership.
The slender outreach to the Irish American community pales, however, to what the mayor says he’s really hell-bent on achieving – the elimination of the horse-drawn carriage industry in Central Park, and the hundreds of jobs attached to it.
Using the unproven and indeed discredited “animal cruelty” charge, de Blasio and many of his acolytes in the City Council say the horses should instead roam free in fields where they can live lives of luxury away from the smog and noise of the city. Because, of course, there is a huge demand out there to shelter and feed old horses who are no longer able to work.
The drivers – many of them Irish — stable workers and others associated with the carriage industry who would lose their livelihoods? Hizzoner has a plan – they can operate electric antique cars through Central Park instead. This would be hilarious if it wasn’t so serious.
Thankfully, a guardian angel with huge star power has very publicly come to the industry’s side and called de Blasio out for being a job killer.
Liam Neeson, one of the most popular movie stars in the world, held a press conference and tour of the Clinton Park horse stables on the far West Side of the city on Sunday. The place was mobbed with media from all over, and the Co. Antrim-born actor who is personal friends with many of the Irish drivers stated their case forcefully.
The horses are cared for like children, Neeson said. The horse and carriage industry has been an iconic part of New York for centuries, and eliminating it is nonsensical.
All the members of the City Council who hold the industry’s future in their hands were invited for Sunday’s tour, and so was de Blasio. He turned down the invite. After all, if you’re hell-bent on putting a man out of work, it would have to be hard to look him and his family in the face.
De Blasio’s plan to destroy the industry won’t be so easy going forward thanks to the bright light that Neeson is shining. He’s done a tremendous job of showing that the only cruelty being carried out is coming from de Blasio and his followers, who are intent on taking the jobs of drivers and their horses who have been delighting tourists and native New Yorkers alike for years.
The drivers had a hard time getting their message out before Neeson’s public display of solidarity. It’s hard to compete against a mayor with a bully pulpit and his “animal rights” millionaires, many of whom happen to have significant ties to the city’s real estate industry. The stables that house the horses sit on prime Manhattan land, so it’s not a stretch to think that if you get rid of the horses, then naturally the land will have to be up for sale at some point.
Neeson has done the horse and carriage industry a huge service with his outspokenness. We couldn’t agree with him more, and are proud to offer our unequivocal support as well.