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De Blasio pursuing compromise to settle carriage horse stalemate

A horse drawn carriage waits to move outside

A horse drawn carriage waits to move outside of Central Park on April 15, 2010 in New York. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

Mayor Bill de Blasio is floating a compromise over the fate of Central Park's horse-drawn carriages as legislation to fulfill his long-standing vow of an outright ban has failed to gain traction.

De Blasio is now seeking to reduce the number of horses rather than prohibit them altogether. Still to be hashed out are details of how many would be permitted to keep working, how many drivers would be affected, and whether the horses would be housed at their current West Side stables or within Central Park to limit their travel on city streets.

Nearly two years have passed since de Blasio, as a newly elected mayor, promised to immediately do away with the industry he called "inhumane." Almost one year has passed since City Council members Daniel Dromm and Ydanis Rodriguez introduced a bill to phase out the carriages.

De Blasio, at an unrelated Manhattan event Tuesday, would not address the specifics of his pitch to stakeholders.

"There's a legislative process going on with the City Council right now," the Democratic mayor told reporters. Acknowledging the resistance backers of the ban faced, the mayor said, "There's been some real differences. We've been trying to work them through."

De Blasio said he had spoken to some council members recently about the plan.

New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets -- the animal rights advocacy group that helped de Blasio into City Hall in 2013 by attacking his opponent -- has showed impatience with the mayor in the past year.

"NYCLASS' number one priority is and has always been the safety of carriage horses. We need to see more details, and frankly, we need to see action and not just promises," a spokesman said in a statement. "But we will continue to work with the mayor and city leaders to protect the horses."

NYCLASS ally and ban bill co-sponsor Dromm sounded a similar call to de Blasio.

"I am always open to compromise so long as it's in the best interest of the horses," Dromm (D-Queens) said in a statement. "However, it's time for action."

Opponents of a ban, including a growing contingent of council members, have said they're concerned about the carriage drivers' jobs.

George Miranda, president of Teamsters Joint Council 16 representing about 300 drivers and stable workers, said polls show most New Yorkers want the "iconic institution" to stay.

"We have always been open to compromise, but the Teamsters would accept nothing short of preserving the horse-carriage industry and the livelihoods of our members," he said in a statement.

With Matthew Chayes

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