De Blasio criticizes Quinn via horse-drawn-carriage legislation

Bill de Blasio and people in horse costume. (Dan Rosenblum)
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Standing at City Hall today with anti-horse-carriage activists, including two dressed in horse costumes, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio assailed the Bloomberg administration and the mayor's frequent ally, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, for the city's oversight of the industry.

“I was in this building for eight years in the City Council,” said de Blasio. “The City Council doesn’t have the option to look the other way. Particularly when the mayor’s not acting. The City Council’s supposed to step up. That’s the nature of our government.”

De Blasio and Quinn are both running for mayor.

The rally was an effort by New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets and PETA to get the city to consider a bill to roll out a prototype electric cart to replace horse-drawn carriages.

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De Blasio, who is running for mayor, criticized Quinn and Mayor Michael Bloomberg for not responding to the groups pushing the bill.

“He dismisses it, he acts like we don’t exist, not the first time we’ve had that experience with him. And he says, this is one of these wonderful unbelievable Michael Bloomberg quotes, he said this would destroy our tourism industry if we didn’t have the horse carriages.”

De Blasio joked that the Statue of Liberty, Broadway Theaters and restaurants were irrelevant.

“It’s just about horse carriages, right?" he said. "That’s it, the only reason people come to New York City.”

At the rally, Carly Mark Knudson the Executive Director of NYCLASS, which has led the charge to replace horse-drawn carriages with electric carts, said their petition has gotten more than 85,000 signatures and almost enough funding to cover the $400,000 prototype.

If the bill passed, each of the 68 carriages would cost $175,000.

In 2010, the city mandated that all horses get five weeks of vacation, increased stall sizes and increased veterinarian visits.

De Blasio said he didn’t want to take away any jobs from the nearly 200 licensed riders.

“We respect that they do this work and we’re saying this needs to change,” he said. “But we don’t want to see them lose their opportunity. So we’re going to give them a new work opportunity with these electric cars.”

Reached by phone, Stephen Malone of the Horse and Carriage Association of New York defended the industry, saying that horses have stables that allow them to lay down and that they pass water troughs every ride in Central Park. He said that his horses were well cared for, while sanctuaries are closing down across the country.

"This is an industry that's never been cited for animal cruelty, neglect or abuse, but meanwhile, we have 16 horses that were put down at the racetrack since November," he said. "So If they're so concerned about horses, why wouldn't they be protesting Belmont and Aqueduct and places like that?"

Manhattan councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, who sponsored the bill, Intro. 86A, said that was a complementary concern. 

“It’s just really sad,” she said of the conditions at racetracks.

“But I don’t think this issue overshadows it," she said. "I think this issue complement each other about raising that level of awareness that the carriage industry or the racehorsing industry, whatever, it just needs more of a forum and needs to be changed, and it needs to be overturned.”

After the rally, Manhattan resident Cacau Da Rosa, one of the costumed horses, took off her suit as temperatures approached 80 degrees. She said was happy to volunteer for the costume gig, while the carriage horses had no choice but to be out on the streets in hot weather.

"They're gonna die," she said.