NY City Council Speaker Sponsors Ban on Horse Carriages Dec 31, 2013 Introduction No. 86-2010 Version AWednesday 15, 2014, 3:30 P.M. EST
Bill de Blasio-D, was sworn in as the Mayor of New York City on New Years day 2014. De Blasio, 52, served for years as the Public Advocate of NYC , the second highest elected office in the city. In his capacity as Advocate, the new Mayor was first in line to succeed Mayor Bloomberg-R, during Bloomberg’s last term. The politically seasoned De Blasio (duh-BLAHS-ee-o) is appropriately energized following his 49 point landslide victory over his nearest opponent last November. De Blasio hit the ground running in the new year with several mandates. One of his mandates may have hit a snag.
The new Mayor campaigned vigorously during the last half of 2013 to impose a permanent ban on horse drawn carriages in Manhattan. He vowed to sign a law banning the carriages during his first week in office. He has already missed this self imposed deadline and there may be a good reason for this. It’s possible he may not have the 26 city council votes necessary to elevate a City Council Introduction to a bill. Legislation pending in the Council is called an Introduction, often abbreviated to ” Intro ” or ” Int “, and is assigned a number.
To ban 68 carriages and retire approximately 210 working horses, De Blasio needs 26 votes from the 51 member New York City Council. In October 2013, MSNBC reported that de Blasio believed he had the votes but on December 31, 2013 there was a quiet City Council Introduction, 0086-2010 Version A. The Introduction reflects that only 18 council members had the will to sponsor a ban on the iconic carriages in Central Park and to replace them with electric cars. As stated, the magic number is 26 and the threshold wasn’t met. Also, three of the 18 Council members who sponsored Introduction 0086-2010 Version A ended their terms on January 1, 2014, most notably Lititia James-D, who is now the new Public Advocate of NYC, second in line to succeed de Blasio.
Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito-D, Manhattan was the sole sponsor of the original Introduction No. 86-2010, back in April of 2010. The 2-term councilwoman also took the lead when 86-2010 was reintroduced as Version A last month. One week after Version A was introduced, Mark-Viverito was unanimously elevated to Speaker of the New York City Council in a 51-0 vote.
As recently as this past Sunday, the newly elected Speaker weighed in on how soon the council will ban horse carriages. In a less provocative response to the question she later said, “We have new colleagues that have come in, so obviously a new level of debate has to happen, and a new level of engagement has to happen with regards to this conversation.”
The speaker was referring to twenty-one new freshmen council members who were sworn in January 1st. Seven of the twenty-one were endorsed by the animal rights group, NYCLASS, New Yorkers for Clean Livable and Safe Streets. NYCLASS is a vocal advocate of the movement to ban horse carriages and the organization spent over $770,000 in ads directed against de Blasios’ top Democrat rival, Christine Quinn.
The Speaker, and original author of both versions of No. 86-2010, still has 14 council members who co-sponsored with her a couple of weeks ago. The seven freshmen endorsed by NYCLASS include two from the Bronx District, two from Queens, one from Brooklyn and two from Manhattan. Even if all seven freshmen joined Mark-Viverito and the other 14, it still leaves Version A short by 4 council votes to become a bill.
There are also 8 incumbents on the current Council who still are or were formerly endorsed by NYCLASS but did not sign on as sponsors of Version A in December. Five are from Queens, two from Brooklyn and one is from Manhattan.
With powerful adversaries like Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Mark-Viverito, New York City’s 200 carriage owners and drivers should prepare themselves for the worst. But they are not without powerful supporters of their own. Most notably, the drivers belong to the powerful Teamsters Union, Teamsters 553. The 553 are committed to protecting the jobs of the drivers and they don’t seem to be in the mood for compromise.
One suggested compromise by the City Council dates back to April of 2010, from the original Introduction No. 86-2010. Drivers may switch out their carriages for electric cars in the style of vintage automobile models from the 40’s and 50’s.
The successful horse drawn carriage business model in Manhattan depends on walk-up customers procured between 5th and 6th Avenues, just south of Central Park. Custom, prearranged carriage tours make up less than 2 percent of revenue but are available and may include amenities like chocolates, roses and champagne. For $50.00, a walk-up customer may receive a 20 minute horse carriage ride with a $20 charge for each additional 10 minutes. Sites seen on the tour may include The Wollman Rink, the Pond and the Central Park Zoo. The distance of the average walk-up ride is .75 miles.
Many drivers are also owners and operators who were grandfathered into the heavily regulated horse carriage industry through an inheritance. Since childhood, it’s the only occupation they’ve ever been exposed to. Stephen Malone, a spokesman for the Horse and Carriage Association of NY, has been in the business for 26 years. NBC quoted Malone in December, stating that he and other carriage owners are willing to sue de Blasio and the city if need be, to protect their livelihoods. In an ominous parting shot meant for the Mayor, Malone stated, “We look forward to having a long battle with him.”
At the moment, De Blasio maintains precious honeymoon political capital which often follows a landslide victory. It’s interesting that he has been quiet about the horse carriage ban for the past several days. As recently as two days before taking his mayoral oath, de Blasio boldly stated, “We’re going to quickly and aggressively move to make horse carriages no longer a part of the landscape in New York City.” He even used the word period before hammering the final nail, “It’s over.”