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Reprieve for NY horse carriages

Congressman Joe Crowley showing his support for the carriages drivers. The obscured word on the bottom left of the banner is “Irish.”

By Ray O’Hanlon

New York City Council has reined in its plan to vote as early as tomorrow on a bill that would have drastically cut the number of horse carriages operating in Manhattan.

New York’s City Council won’t vote on a proposal to limit Central Park carriage horses Friday, officials said, dealing a blow to Mayor Bill de Blasio, the Wall Street Journal reported this morning.

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And a statement from the Teamsters, which represents the carriage drivers, many of them Irish and Irish American, gives an indication why.

The statement, from George Miranda, President of Teamsters Joint Council 16, the union that represents workers in the horse-drawn carriage industry, said: "The Teamsters' first priority is always our members and their livelihoods. With the legislation now finalized, our members are not confident that it provides a viable future for their industry. We cannot support the horse carriage bill currently before the City Council."

Previously it had been reported that the union had agreed to the bill but subsequent reports indicated that carriage drivers took strongly disagreed to the deal.

The bill would have moved a much reduced number of carriages into Central Park and would have precluded drivers from picking up business on Central Park South, 59th St.

This is where much of the current horse carriage business originates.

The pullback by the Teamsters was a blow to Mayor Bill de Blasio whose pre-election pledge to remove horse carriages completely from city streets is now in limbo.

“The terms of that agreement have not changed during these past weeks, but today the Teamsters decided to back away from the fair compromise they had previously endorsed,” de Blasio said.
“While we are disappointed this bill will no longer be considered Friday, the people of this city know what I believe, and we will work toward a new path on this issue.”

What that new path will be is anybody’s guess. Not a few City Council members are opposed to the elimination of the carriages and the jobs that go with them.

The opposition to the complete ban, and then the modified plan in the City Council bill, steadily grew in recent weeks.

The latest critic to come out strongly against the bill was Congressman Joe Crowley.

Crowley issued a statement earlier in the week, and then a subsequent one in which he stated: “Dear friends, I wanted you to be aware that earlier this week I publicly announced my opposition to the legislation pending before the New York City Council that would reduce the number of horse carriages in our city by nearly half.

“As you know, this proposal stands to affect the livelihoods of over 300 families. Many of the drivers are first-generation Americans, and many of them live in my district.

“These are hard-working individuals who not only care very deeply about what they do, but also care very deeply for their horses. The horse carriage industry is a microcosm of the American Dream and it’s an industry this city should be proud of, not working to diminish. I hope the City Council rejects this bill, and returns its focus to some of the very real challenges we are facing here in New York.”