Stephen malone

Mayor shifts tone on NYC horse ban

[caption id="attachment_79791" align="aligncenter" width="300"]

Horse-carriage drivers’ spokesman Stephen Malone, left, with Council member Rafael L. Espinal Jr., who was announcing his opposition to the ban at City Hall last September. PHOTO: PETER MCDERMOTT[/caption]

By Irish Echo Staff

Not so much a climb-down as a step back.

Whichever the case, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio clearly signaled yesterday that he has bigger priorities than pursuing the horse-carriage ban, a hitherto signature policy.

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When asked by radio host Brian Lehrer why the ban has been stalled after 18 months in office, de Blasio indicated that the City Council was in the way.

“What I would say to every [ban] advocate is, you already have my vote; go get the votes in the City Council,” he said on the Lehrer show on WNYC. “Solidify the support in the City Council so we can make this change. That’s where people should put their energy.”

The message seemed obvious enough: de Blasio’s City Hall would not be doing any more arm-twisting on behalf of its own bill, which appears to have lost votes since it was introduced last year.

“The fact is, the industry has a lot of support in the City Council and among the populace,” de Blasio said. “Ultimately, you are going to see an end to the horse-carriage industry in the city. But we have to do this through the City Council, where there is a wide range of views.”

A poll conducted by Quinnipiac University earlier this year showed that 63 percent of voters opposed the ban and 25 percent supported it. All three main newspapers – the New York Times, the Daily News and the New York Post -- have editorialized in defense of a union-backed industry that has strong ties to the Irish and other immigrant communities.

“I think it’s a sign that he’s moving on,” Democratic political consultant George Arzt said to the Post. “I think politically most people understand that this is a losing battle on the one hand, and on the other that there are bigger issues to go after.”

Animal-rights activists, and business interests with a stake in the issue, strongly backed de Blasio’s mayoral campaign in 2013 and reportedly also spent $1 million in opposing Christine Quinn, considered at one time his chief rival for the Democratic nomination.

Edita Birnkrant of Friends of Animals New York told AM New York that the mayor’s change of tone was “frustrating” and “disappointing.”

Daniel Dromm, a Democratic councilman from Queens and the ban’s most prominent supporter on the City Council, said to the Times yesterday, “I don’t understand why the mayor made the comments that he made this morning.”

Meanwhile, Teamsters Joint Council 16, which represents the horse-carriage drivers, told the Echo it would not be making any official statement about the mayor’s radio interview for now.