Mark-Viverito ‘not sure’ when Council will ban carriages

Passengers enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
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Melissa Mark-Viverito, the newly elected speaker of the City Council, said on Sunday that a ban on horse carriages, which Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to enact during his first week in office, may not happen immediately.

"We have 20 new colleagues that have come in, so obviously a new level of debate has to happen, and a new level of engagement has to happen with regards to this conversation," Mark-Viverito said in an interview on "Up Close with Diana Williams" on WABC.

De Blasio has already missed his own deadline for banning the carriages, which he had repeatedly pledged to ban during his first week in office. The new mayor, whose campaign profited from his anti-carriage position, took office on Jan. 1.

Mark-Viverito noted on Sunday that she was the lead sponsor of a bill to ban the carriages, but said that legislation would have to be re-introduced in the new Council.

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The new speaker might be reluctant to press her own legislative agenda too aggresively after she criticized her predecessor, Christine Quinn, for blocking bills that were supported by a majority of the council's 51 members.

When host Diana Williams asked for a specific timeline on the ban, Mark-Viverito struck an inclusive tone, saying, "I'm not sure. ... We're a very collaborative body. It has to be discussed with my colleagues in terms of what would be the most immediate things we want to take up right now."

She noted the members have yet to "coalesce" to plan their legislative priorities.

De Blasio, who pushed councilmembers to elect Mark-Viverito as speaker, seized on the carriage issue during the campaign, and vowed to end the industry "within the first week on the job" during an animal-rights forum in March, and again during a radio interview in September.

That position translated to substantial support from animal-rights activists frustrated by Quinn's unwillingness to ban the carriages. One anti-carriage group spent more than $1 million attacking Quinn, one of his chief rivals in the race, and several donors who focused on the issue were among his top supporters.

The anti-carriage group also served as a clearinghouse for other de Blasio donors: one of his early union supporters quietly bankrolled $507,000 of the anti-Quinn effort. (De Blasio has said his campaign did not coordinate with the horse-carriage foes, which would be prohibited by the city's campaign finance laws.)

As a councilman, de Blasio had declined to sign onto a bill to ban the industry.