The Central Park horse-carriage stakes are about to go up. Nearly a year into his mayoralty, Bill de Blasio is putting the final touches on a measure that would chase this iconic industry out of the city.
That is something the mayor had promised to do on Day 1 of his reign. So why didn't he? Possibly because the idea makes so little sense -- except perhaps as a tip of the hat to animal-rights advocates who helped pony up a key $1-million ad buy attacking former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a key rival in last year's mayoral primary.
The plan de Blasio is crafting would still cause about 300 carriage drivers and support workers to lose their jobs. It would hack off New Yorkers, who oppose the ban by a 2-to-1 majority. And it would disappoint tourists.
But de Blasio has dropped a sugar lump into the deal.
To make life easier for displaced drivers, the city would offer to put them on the fast track to operate green taxis in the outer boroughs and upper Manhattan.
That's better than nothing -- but it's still not enough to cushion the blow of destroying a popular New York City enterprise for no discernible public reason.
True, the formidable animal-rights lobby says horses should be banned from Central Park on grounds of animal cruelty alone. But that argument quickly fails.
Animal cruelty? A 2010 city law stipulates that carriage horses must get five weeks of vacation a year in a place with green pastures and plenty to eat. They cannot work when temperatures are above 90 degrees or below 18. And only horses between 5 and 26 years old are even eligible for employment in the city.
The de Blasio bill could go to the City Council as early as next week. At the moment, it looks as if about half of the 51-member body is undecided. A vote on the plan -- which would outlaw the industry by May 31, 2016 -- isn't foreseen until sometime next year.
Expect serious horse-trading by council members, but ultimately they must tell de Blasio no.
New Yorkers -- not to mention the rest of the world -- like the carriage horses. They add a touch of charm to a frantic and fractious place. Why run off a good thing?