NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A group at the heart of one of the New York City corruption investigations is apparently on the offensive, trying to sell their idea of banning carriage horses.
Federal and state prosecutors are looking into whether or not Mayor Bill de Blasio gave favors to two donors who opposed Central Park’s horse drawn carriages and were also looking to develop valuable West Side property where the stables sit. The donors, Wendy Neu and Steve Nislick are the leaders of the animal rights advocacy group New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets, or NYCLASS.
On Wednesday, people were spotted taking pictures, staring, and just plain curious in Borough Park, Brooklyn. The subject of all the attention was a vintage all-electric car, modeled after a Rolls Royce, that was seen rolling through the neighborhood, CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported.
Ostensibly, the e-carriage arrived to take people in a program for the developmentally disabled on rides. But some, it came at a curious time.
The car is at the center of the corruption investigation focused on NYCLASS. It was first unveiled in 2014 and was designed and built for NYCLASS.
The group advised that the e-carriages should replace horse-drawn carriages, which Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed to ban as a campaign promise when he ran for mayor in 2014.
Now, NYCLASS’ Nislick and Neu have been subpoenaed as part of a probe into Mayor de Blasio’s fundraising operation and how it influenced his push for the horse carriage ban.
On Wednesday, Vinny Di Santo of NYCLASS, who was driving the e-carriage in Borough Park, touted it as a better alternative to the horse carriages.
“We fit twice as many guests as the horse carriages do. We can work in extreme weather conditions, which they do and they’re not supposed to,” Di Santo said.
Di Santo said the e-carriage is cruelty free. During the Borough Park ride, NYCLASS was giving out T-shirts demanded that the horse carriages be banned.
Di Santo clammed up when Kramer asked him whether the corruption probe had made it difficult to get the city to license the business.
“We’re here to talk about the e-carriage,” Di Santo said.
But horse carriage driver Christine Hansen called it a distraction on NYCLASS’ part.
“It seems like tthey’re trying to distract from being subpoenaed by the U.S. Attorney,” Hansen said. “This is in the middle of the investigation of corruption. It’s something to try and make over their image, because their image has been tarnished by the fact that they have lied about their industry.”
Mayor de Blasio has made several attempts to get the City Council to approve a ban on horse carriages on New York City streets. But the effort seems to be in limbo as the probe continues.
The horse carriage drivers also raised the issue with the e-carriage itself, pointing out that there are no airbags and they have not been crash-tested.