De Blasio Announces Compromise to Keep Horse Carriages in Central Park

The battle over horse carriages may finally be in Mayor Bill de Blasio's rearview mirror.

Two horse-drawn carriages are ridden on Central Park West on January 2, 2014. (STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)
Two horse-drawn carriages are ridden on Central Park West on January 2, 2014. (STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

The battle over horse carriages may finally be in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s rearview mirror.

Mr. de Blasio and industry stakeholders tonight announced an “agreement in concept” to restrict the horse-drawn carriages to Central Park—a compromise that falls short of Mr. de Blasio’s campaign promise to ban the industry entirely on “day one” of his mayoral administration.

The agreement comes on day 747 of Mr. de Blasio’s tenure, and several days after news outlets reported last week that Mr. de Blasio had reached a deal, only for negotiations to apparently drag on a few days longer. Tonight, late on a Sunday of a three-day weekend, Mr. de Blasio put out a joint statement with several stakeholders: Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who will have to pass legislation on the matter; George Miranda, president of Teamsters Joint Council 16, the umbrella union that represents the horse carriage drivers; Demos Demopoulos, secretary treasurer of Teamsters Local 553, the local union; and Stephen Malone, a Teamster carriage driver.

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement in concept on the future of New York’s horse carriage industry,” the statement read. “We look forward to working together on the final details of this legislation and getting this passed.”

Absent from that group are the animal rights groups that have fervently pushed for a total ban of the horse carriage industry, including New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets, better known as NYCLASS.

The existing location of horse stables on Manhattan’s West Side has long been brought up as a barrier to keeping the horses in the park, since they would still have to use city streets to get there and back. (Carriage horse drivers and stable owners, meanwhile, have often accused those seeking a ban, including NYCLASS backer Steve Nislick, of being after their real estate, something they have denied.)

The framework announced today calls for the building of new stables in Central Park by October 1, 2018. The city will pay for the new stables, as Politico New York reported last week.

Until the new stables are complete, the horses will only be allowed on city streets to travel to and from their existing stables, beginning June 1. The city, working with the industry, will designate hack stands in Central Park by that date.

The agreement will also reduce the number of licensed horses—going from 180 now to 110 by December 1, 2016. That will fall further to 95 when the Central Park stables open, with 75 of them living long-term in the park. Horses not currently at work will be required to furlough outside the city. The number of hours a horse can work a day will drop to 9.

While their business will be limited to the park, carriage drivers will be able to charge $5 extra for trips between November 15 and January 5, and on Easter and Valentine’s Day. They also won’t get much competition from pedicabs, which will be banned south of the 85th Street Transverse in the park.

The agreement still needs to be translated into legislation. The first step will be to hold a hearing on a previously introduced bill, which will have to be updated to reflect the compromise that has been struck.

The horse carriages have been a political headache for Mr. de Blasio. On the one hand, there was his campaign promise to animal rights activists—who vigorously campaigned against his top opponent in the Democratic primary, former Council Speaker Christine Quinn. On the other, there were Mr. de Blasio’s typical allies in the world of organized labor, who represent the carriage drivers and the jobs they might have lost if the industry had been banned completely.

Despite support from Ms. Mark-Viverito, there seemed to be little political will from the City Council at large, where many members benefit from the endorsements of unions and where some grew deeply frustrated with calls and ads from animal groups, to pass a ban.

De Blasio Announces Compromise to Keep Horse Carriages in Central Park