De Blasio administration drafts horse-carriage bill
Nearly one year after taking office, Mayor Bill de Blasio is preparing to abolish horse-drawn carriages by producing a City Council bill that is expected to be introduced in December, according to two sources who have seen a copy of the draft legislation.
The mayor's plan would take several steps to phase out horse carriages by 2016.
The bill would not renew licenses to operate the carriage horses, which are set to expire in May of 2016, according to the sources.
The bill would also make it illegal to drive horse-drawn carriages in the city, unless as part of a parade or movie screening.
The legislation, as currently written, would also require horse owners to notify City Hall at least 10 days before transferring ownership or disposing of their horses. That provision will specifically state that the owners cannot sell or give the horses away to a slaughterhouse and would require documentation to ensure that does not happen.
During his mayoral campaign last year, de Blasio promised to abolish the industry immediately upon taking office—a pledge that earned him significant support from horse carriage opponents, who helped wage a million-dollar campaign against one of his chief rivals, former Council speaker Christine Quinn.
But a vocal group of carriage drivers has fought to preserve the industry, which is popular with tourists, and the administration has yet to act on the mayor's promise.
The bill would create a training program for carriage owners and drivers, stable workers and license holders between June of 2014 and May of 2016.
And the city would cover the cost of certain green-taxi licensing fees for carriage drivers who are eligible. (As a candidate, de Blasio criticized the outer-borough taxi program.)
It is unclear if the bill has the 26 supporters required to pass in the Council, but at least one member has agreed to introduce it, the sources told Capital. Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, an ally of de Blasio's, has long supported banning horse carriages.
The Council would not vote on the bill for approximately six months, while the city conducts the requisite environmental review of the plan.
Under the legislation, the city would also issue a Request for Expressions of Interest for possible alternatives to carriage horses. Some advocates have suggested electric cars could take the place of carriages.
UPDATE: George Miranda, president of Teamsters Joint Council 16, which represents horse carriage drivers, said in a statement this morning that the de Blasio administration's bill to stop horse carriage rides by 2016 was done without input from the union, but that he and the members are "open to continued dialogue and discussion with the administration so we can find a solution that keeps the horses and drivers in Central Park."
"This is awful news to give a working family just before the holidays," Miranda said. "Three hundred carriage drivers—men and women who have devoted their lives to caring for horses—will be unemployed if this bill is passed."