Administration provides Council with details of horse carriage plan

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Horse-drawn carriage in Central Park. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)
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After failing to answer questions from the City Council last week about Mayor Bill de Blasio’s long-awaited proposal to move horse carriages off city streets, senior administration officials circulated a memo to members on Tuesday in an effort to provide them with more information.

“Councilmember, I know you had a number of questions from the hearing on Friday that required follow up,” Jon Paul Lupo, director of the Office of City Legislative Affairs, wrote in the email. “The attached sheet and image ... should answer most of those questions. If there is anything else you need, please don’t hesitate to call or email.”

The email, obtained by POLITICO New York, was only sent to certain Council members; others who said they did not receive it said they were provided with the fact sheet upon request.

“They are making their case as best they can,” said one member who confirmed receiving the email but asked not to be named. "This is obviously very important to the mayor and they are making that very clear.”

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On Monday, de Blasio defended his administration, arguing that plenty of information had been available at last Friday's hearing.

“This has been worked on for quite awhile. People have had a lot of time to think about this. What I have heard from Council members is that they think this is a fair plan, and I expect that we will get a lot of support for it,” de Blasio told reporters.

The fact sheet covers a number of concerns Council members raised at last week's hearing, including the number of jobs that will be lost; the location of the horse stable within Central Park; what will happen to pedicab drivers and specifics of how and when horse carriages will be allowed to operate.

In its memo, the administration outlines plans for a new stable to be built within an existing building, referred to as “The Shop,” near the 85th Street Transverse. Those plans will require approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Public Design Commission.

The two-story, 14,000-square-foot structure is expected to accomodate “all horse stable operations,” the administration states in the memo. In addition, the city plans to build a new structure immediately adjacent to The Shop to house the carriages. The total size of the two structures remains unclear.

To accommodate The Shop’s current operations, the administration plans to relocate it to an existing parks facility in the South Bronx, which was already in the works before administration’s decision to take over the building.

The administration also acknowledges the stable operation in Central Park will be “be governed by a concession agreement with a worker cooperative within the carriage industry,” but says financial arrangements have yet to be determined.

“Sole source concessions are not uncommon at Parks. In this instance, it makes sense to seek a sole source because there are only a limited number of carriage owners. Any concession, including a sole source, will need to comply with all applicable rules and procedures,” Lupo writes in the memo.

Administration officials have estimated that between 40 and 50 horse carriage industry jobs will be lost after Dec. 1 but said they are committed to helping the union find new jobs for displaced workers. The proposal to downsize the industry does not designate a cap the number of horse carriage drivers licenses, so shifts are expected to decrease and impact overall employment.

“The Teamsters, which represent workers in a wide range of employment fields, have guaranteed that they will find work for any former horse-carriage industry worker affected by the industry’s reduction,” the memo reads. “The City will provide assistance in that effort and retraining to any dislocated worker through its Workforce 1 centers.”

The city also outlines in the memo how horse traffic will flow around Central Park once the new stables are built.

Starting June 1, carriage horses can only be on city streets when traveling between the stable in Central Park on routes determined by the Department of Transportation and the NYPD. Horse traffic will also be limited during rush hour with a total ban on city streets from 7 to 10 a.m. and 4:30 to 7 p.m. weekdays.

In its memo, the administration once again makes its case for banning pedicabs from the southern end of the park. Industry officials have accused de Blasio of using them as a pawn to fulfill a campaign promise to ban horse carriages altogether.

According to the fact sheet, all 837 pedicabs will be banned in Central Park, south of the 85th Street Transverse, starting June 1.

“The tourism that supports these businesses is only growing, with close to 60 million tourists last year, ensuring continuing and growing demand for these services,” the memo reads.

The administration stresses in the memo that the pedicab ban is intended to “balance competing park uses and is not a response to prior violations,” but offers data about the rate of summonses issued to pedicabs.

“In 2015, NYPD issued 2,986 criminal court summonses to pedicabs for moving violations. Twenty-five percent, or 749 of those summonses came in the 22nd Precinct which is Central Park,” the memo reads.

Asked to comment on the administration’s outreach to Council members, Wiley Norvell a spokesman for de Blasio, said “we began the public discussion about the agreement as soon as possible, so we could garner the input and concerns of all the other stakeholders. We're working hard to provide information as soon as it's available.”