City Council Divided Over Ban On Horse Carriages

December 2, 2014 | Prachi Gupta

Though Mayor Bill de Blasio has been pushing for a ban on on horse-drawn carriages since his first week in office, around a year later, the city council is still divided on the issue. De Blasio’s campaign was partially bankrolled by animal rights activists, and now a bill protecting their interests is expected to come from City Councilmember Daniel Dromm on Monday. But Capital New York reports that the majority of councilmembers are undecided:

Eight Council members told Capital on Monday they support the bill while eight said they oppose it. Twenty nine others said they haven’t decided how they would vote. Six members did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

However, the bill, which would “propose sunsetting horse-drawn carriages by May 31, 2016, when the last of the carriage operator licenses are set to expire,” will not be voted on for another six months, at least, because the city would first assess the environmental and economic impact of the plan. The Village Voice explains the details of the upcoming proposal:

The actual phasing-out of the horse-drawn carriages will be done with the expiration of the carriage drivers’ licenses. The last of the licenses to own a horse-drawn carriage, which are valid for two years, are set to expire on March 31, 2016.

Those will be extended for two months in order to sync up with the last of the licenses to operate a horse-drawn carriage, which will expire on May 31, 2016. A third license (to own a horse) will need to be coordinated with the dates of the other two as well.

According to [Edita Birnkrant, campaigns director for the advocacy group Friends of Animals], the bill will also include a provision — crucial for animal-rights advocates — regulating how the horses will transition into “retirement.”

Additionally, the 300 or so individuals affected by the ban would be eligible to obtain green taxi licenses to operate cabs in the city’s outer boroughs. Capital notes, however, that these licenses “are worth far less on the open market than the horse carriage medallians.”

Those who oppose the ban are concerned about what would happen to the workers being forced out of their jobs. Councilman Rory Lancman told Capital:

“Being a horse carriage driver is not transferrable to being a cab driver or a bus driver or a train driver. It’s a whole other thing entirely,” said Lancman, a Queens Democrat, said. “This is not a compromise. I think the direction of finding these folks a different line of work is the wrong direction for a compromise.”

Though its reported that there have been 25 accidents since 2009, some critics of the plan question the animal abuse claim that has fueled the proposal. Said Central Labor Council president Vincent Alvarez:

Contrary to misinformation being spread by opponents of the horse-carriage industry, there is absolutely no record of abuse. In fact, it is one of the most highly regulated industries in our city. From the very beginning, a proposed carriage ban has been a flawed solution in search of a nonexistent problem.

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito supports the ban, but as she told the New York Post, “I have confidence that we’re going to have a good, thorough debate on this one.”

(Photo: Tim Scott)