By Juan Soto
City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside), whose district is home to about 20 percent of the horse-drawn carriage drivers, admitted he was surprised the controversial bill to rid of the industry “became the No. 1 question” at City hall.
“This shouldn’t be the big issue it turned out to be,” he said.
Vallone called for a compromise between the industry supporters and workers and City Hall, but he said Mayor Bill de Blasio “pushed it to a point where there is all or nothing.”
The City Council is divided over the bill introduced by Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), and promoted by de Blasio, legislation that calls for putting an end to the horse-drawn carriages in Manhattan by mid 2016.
“Now the mayor wants a yes or no answer,” Vallone said. “Now there is no compromise.”
The lawmaker said he spoke with several of the drivers at his office, a meeting that gave the workers a chance to explain how their industry operates.
“I learned a lot about them,” Vallone said.
He said that with more regulations, maybe the industry should be saved.
“I think the best thing to do is to put in more restrictions and further regulate the industry,” he said. “And then you will have the best regulated industry as oppose to eliminating it.”
But supporters of the ban are also working behind the scenes, putting pressure on council members to vote in favor of the bill banning the horse-drawn carriages.
For example, NYCLASS, the animal rights group behind the bill, is mailing daily graphic postcards to the lawmakers until the legislation is passed.
“We expect the bill to be passed and the horse-carriage drivers will be a thing of the past,” Allie Feldman, executive director of NYCLASS, said recently.
The group also launched other campaigns seeking to amass support for the bill. The efforts included TV commercials.
In collaboration with the People for the Ethical Treatments of Animals, the groups organized an ad blitz campaign in which they targeted council members by installing giant posters in the bus stops near their district offices. The ads featured a horse that died in a Manhattan street in 2011.
NYCLASS is also organizing pickets near district offices of the lawmakers who opposed the bill.
More than 300 people work in the horse-drawn carriage industry.
Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 260–4564.