NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Long-delayed legislation to ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City is finally going to be introduced at the City Council next week.
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said Monday that the bill is still being drafted but is nearly finished.
The bill would take several steps to eliminate horse-drawn carriages, including not renewing licenses to operate carriage horses. Those licenses are set to expire in 2016.
Sources told CBS2 the bill would include a provision in which the de Blasio administration would offer green taxi medallions for carriage drivers, who could then drive cabs.
Under the proposed bill, horse carriages would be allowed for parades and movie productions, WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported.
Proponents of the bill say it’s a move toward a safer city.
“Horses don’t belong on New York City’s congested streets amid cars and pollution. There have been too many crashes and too many horse deaths and injuries to justify the continuation of this industry,” Council Member Daniel Dromm (D-Queens), said in a statement. “The legislation, being introduced at the next Stated Meeting of the New York City Council, will provide a valuable alternative for the drivers while at the same time ensuring the humane treatment of the horses.”
“The bill means that it’s time to end the inhumane, unsafe carriage horse industry in New York,” Allie Feldman, executive director of NYCLASS, an animal rights group that has been pushing to shutter the industry, told CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez.
But George Miranda, President of Teamsters Joint Council 16 that represents carriage workers, called the proposal “awful news to give a working family just before the holidays.”
“Three hundred carriage drivers — men and women who have devoted their lives to caring for horses — will be unemployed if this bill is passed,” Miranda said in a statement. “The administration wrote this bill without input from the union that represents these drivers. Without visiting the stables where the horses live. Without listening to the 63 percent of New Yorkers who have voiced their support for the Central Park carriages.”
Stephen Malone, a father of three, has been a Hansom Cabbie for 27 years.
“For 300 men and women to wake up, to put their kids on the school bus to go to school, to find out they may not have a job, it’s disgusting,” he said.
Others said trading in carriages for green cabs is not a solution.
“We don’t want to drive green cabs, we don’t want to drive yellow cabs or purple cabs or polka-dotted cabs,” Christina Hansen, spokesperson for the New York City Horse Carriage Association, told 1010 WINS. “We drive horse-drawn cabs so that’s just a nonstarter all together.”
“We’re carriage people,” industry spokesman Stephen Malone told Haskell. “We’re in the tourist field. We’re not in the taxi cab business. We don’t want to be in the taxi cab business.”
Animal-welfare activists and others have long pressed to get rid of the carriage horses. They say Manhattan traffic is no place for a horse.
“Carriage horses were never meant to work in today’s urban terrain,” said Feldman.
“Horses should not be forced to share our city’s congested roadways alongside ambulances, trucks and buses,” Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez said in a statement. “Too many preventable incidents have already occurred and it’s time for New York to step up and ban this inhumane treatment of our horses like other cities have already done.”
Backers of the industry say the animals are well cared for.
“This issue of welfare has been settled,” Hansen said. “Unless they’re planning on banning police horses as well, the idea that horses don’t belong in the city when they’ve always been here is just ludicrous.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio initially said he wanted to ban the horses from city streets during his first week in office.
De Blasio had also proposed replacing the carriages with electric cars and said the change would help create jobs.
It’s too soon to tell if the bill will have the 26 City Council member votes it needs to pass. The vote is not expected to happen until early next year.
The city has to conduct an environmental study on the proposal before the bill can go to a vote.
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