Mayor Mike Bloomberg signaled once again this week that he has no interest in banning the city's horse-drawn carriages, just days after an equine toiler collapsed and died in midtown.
The tragedy, followed by the mayor's response, could be harnessed by a nonprofit group that's spent months ramping up its campaign to replace carriage horses with electric cars that look like classic automobiles.
Weeks before the carriage horse's death, New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets, or NY-Class, had stepped up efforts to revive a measure that's languished in the City Council for more than a year.
Earlier this month, NY-Class unveiled a miniature model of the faux-vintage electric car that it wants to replace carriage horses. The group plans to spend $400,000 in the next year to produce a prototype of the vehicle. It's raising money from private donors and from a growing network of supporters.
Private meetings with elected officials in recent weeks have led City Council Members Vinnie Gentile, Annabel Palma and Jimmy Vacca to sign on to the legislation. That raised the number of co-sponsors to 14. Following the mayor's remarks Wednesday, Brooklyn Councilman Steve Levin signed on.
At the same time, the number of registered NY-Class supporters has jumped. Six months ago, the group had about 30,000 backers. Organizers now say they have more than 47,000, whom they plan to mobilize in the coming days.
“The mayor has infuriated our members,” said Carly Knudson, NY-Class's executive director.
But a revved-up base is unlikely to sway even some sympathetic council members, like Manhattan's Gale Brewer. While she supports banning horses, she doesn't want the replacement electric cars, or any vehicles, in Central Park.
Council Speaker Chris Quinn has also shown little enthusiasm for the bill. She represents the West Side, where many carriage horse operators have stables. The operators remain confident that their jobs are safe.
“Carriage horses are an important part of New York's story, and will remain so for many years to come,” said an industry spokesman.
by Shane Dixon Kavanaugh
Crain's New York Business