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Ban on horse-drawn carriages to be introduced next week, councilman says

Protests in favor of a carriage-horse ban in

Protests in favor of a carriage-horse ban in April 2014. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

Legislation to ban Central Park's horse-drawn carriages will be introduced next week at the City Council's next full meeting, its lead sponsor, City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Queens), said Monday.

"The morality of a nation can be judged by the way society treats its animals," Dromm said, paraphrasing Mahatma Gandhi. "Horses don't belong on New York City's congested streets amid cars and pollution. There have been too many crashes and too many horse deaths and injuries to justify the continuation of this industry."

The bill's scheduled introduction next Monday comes before Mayor Bill de Blasio's self-imposed end-of-year deadline for pursuing a ban legislatively, although a vote by the council is not expected to come until next year.

Dromm said his bill "will provide a valuable alternative for the drivers while at the same time ensuring the humane treatment of the horses."

Groups on either side of the debate reacted Monday to job prospects for the drivers should the ban be approved.

Select City Council members were briefed Sunday by de Blasio's office on a draft of the bill. The city would offer horse-drawn carriage drivers free green-taxi medallions as a means of alternative employment and create a training program for those in the horse-drawn carriage industry, according to published reports.

Animal rights group New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets, or NYCLASS, on Monday applauded the proposal.

"This is the right creative solution that benefits all New Yorkers by adding jobs while also ending an unsafe and inhumane industry," NYCLASS executive director Allie Feldman said in a statement.

The union that represents the about 300 full- and part-time drivers, meanwhile, said the bill would mean unemployment for its members and said it was drafted without input from the drivers.

"This is awful news to give a working family just before the holidays," said George Miranda, president of Teamsters Joint Council 16. "Our members are horse people. It is all they have ever done, and all they want to do. They aren't interested in driving an imaginary electric car or taking a job from a cabdriver."

A spokesman for City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said she is supportive of the concept behind the ban and will review the legislation.

De Blasio after an unrelated event in Manhattan on Monday said, "We think it's time to end the horse carriages in the city, and we're going to act on it."

A de Blasio office spokesman said the mayor aims to get horses off the streets while protecting the livelihoods of the men and women who drive carriages. De Blasio as a candidate pledged a ban on the industry, which he called "inhumane," in his first week as mayor but later revised his timeline to year's end.

The fight over the ban has played out all year at City Hall as supporters and opponents lobbied members of the City Council. It has pitted proponents de Blasio, Mark-Viverito, City Council members including Dromm and Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Manhattan) and animal rights groups against opponents including council members Rafael Espinal (D-Brooklyn), Rory Lancman (D-Queens) and organized labor groups.

The debate has also attracted celebrity attention, with former "Biggest Loser" star Jillian Michaels advocating on behalf of the horses' well-being and action film star Liam Neeson speaking up for the centuries-old carriage industry.

A Quinnipiac University poll last month found 63 percent of New York City voters say de Blasio should not ban horse-drawn carriages.

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