NEW YORK—City Council just might halt Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plans to ban the horse-drawn carriage industry in New York City.
Council member Rafael Espinal, a Brooklyn democrat, said he would not be passing a bill banning the horse-drawn carriage industry at a press conference on the City Hall steps Wednesday, flanked by a crowd of supporters and members of the industry.
Espinal is the chair of the Consumer Affairs Committee, which oversees the industry, and this would prevent the bill from moving to the floor for a vote.
Espinal said a plan that would “end a 150-year tradition” and end up to 300 jobs “is not something I can answer for.”
Council member Rafael Espinal speaks out against the horse-drawn carriage ban on the City Hall steps in Manhattan on Sept. 10, 2014. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
Earlier this year, the teamsters unions announced their support for the industry as well, and hope to use their influence on the union-friendly City Council to prevent a ban.
To Espinal’s knowledge, most of the council members are still have not taken a position. There are 14 council members for the ban and only 8 against, but 26 are undecided.
While the bill could be quashed in the Consumer Affairs Committee, the mayor could still. introduce the bill in another committee. Transportation Committee chair Ydanis Rodgriguez, for instance, supports banning the horse-drawn carriages.
“We’re going to continue to talk to the council members because that’s where the battle lies,” said Demos Demopoulos, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 553 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union.
Protesters gather in support of the horse-drawn carriage ban at City Hall during Council member Rafael Espinal’s press conference who suports the ban in Manhattan on Sept. 10, 2014. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
Rodriguez’s office was not immediately available for comment.
Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who was the lead sponsor of a 2011 horse-carriage ban bill, said at an unrelated press conference it has not been decided yet which committee the bill will be introduced through.
“Some action will be had at some point,” Mark-Viverito said.
Supporters of the ban have proposed several alternatives to address concerns like the loss of jobs.
Some propose replacing the carriages with pedicabs or vintage electric cars. There has also been talk of a job training program, which Espinal said was not feasible in this economy.
Another main concern of those who want the carriages gone is the treatment of the animals. Supporters of the ban cite a 2011 incident when a carriage horse dropped dead on 54th street near Eighth Avenue. Many say the horses are mistreated.
The teamsters said the four Manhattan stables have an open-door policy, and invited politicians to assess the working and living conditions of the horses themselves.
With additional reporting by Annie Wu.