Just a weeks after some of his top staffers faced ridicule from the City Council over their apparent cluelessness about key details about his plan to regulate the horse-carriage industry, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he believed the body would surely pass the proposal.
Mr. de Blasio argued everyone ought to be happy with his vision for wrangling the horses into Central Park, culling the herd of animals to less than half its current size, spending $25 million to convert a maintenance shed into a new stable and restricting pedicabs to the area of the park above 85th Street to reduce competition. The plan has in fact aroused rancor from multiple sources, including a number of carriage operators.
But the mayor noted he negotiated the arrangement with Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and with the Teamsters union, which represents the drivers.
“I think there’s a lot of support in the Council. This is the kind of balanced plan the council members said they wanted, and we’re going to get it done,” Mr. de Blasio declared at an unrelated press conference today.
Several council members dismissed the plan as everything from “a blank check” to “an empty bag with a hole in it” at the hearing last month. Others mocked Mayor’s Office of Operations Director Mindy Tarlow for being unable to answer basic questions about the impact the plan would have on the carriage and pedicab industries, or on the potential loss of public parkland.
De Blasio aide John Paul Lupo fired off a dossier on the plan to the lawmakers after the hearing to try and satisfy their queries, but opposition appears only to have grown. On Monday, Brooklyn Councilman David Greenfield called for postponing a vote on the deal until the city could “a proper study” on the issue.
Congressman Joseph Crowley, chairman of the Queens County Democratic Party, also came out against the proposal earlier this week—indicating the entire Queens delegation to the Council could vote against it. Additionally, the Transit Workers Union, which has frequently clashed with Mr. de Blasio, has decried the intrusion on the pedicab drivers’ business.
Today, Mr. de Blasio pointed out the TWU has “no history” of representing the bicycle-driven rickshaws, but indicated he was willing to negotiate with the cyclists themselves. The pedicab drivers had protested City Hall the day of the hearing, complaining the administration did not consult them before
“I want to just affirm that I’m very happy to work with the pedicab drivers to figure out a long-term plan for that industry. But TWU’s not been part of that process previously,” he said.
Animal rights groups, drawing on the star power of actress Gillian Anderson and the singer Pink, are in favor of the deal. New Yorkers for Clean Livable and Safe Streets, an anti-carriage group, invested heavily in ads attacking former Council Speaker Christine Quinn—Mr. de Blasio’s biggest rival for the mayoralty—on the 2013 campaign trail.
Mr. de Blasio pledged as a candidate to abolish horse-carriages “on day one” of his administration, but the issue did not see much movement until last month.
The Council is currently scheduled to vote on the proposal on Friday.