As it turns out, most residents of the Big Apple appreciate tradition and opportunities to ride horse-drawn carriages around places like Central Park -- a practice that has been a staple of New York City for some 150 years. Even so, that must come as quite the shock to newly elected Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio -- who, of course, tried (unsuccessfully) to eliminate the industry altogether after taking the oath of office.
Funded by animal rights activists and aided by PETA, his ongoing efforts to kick horses out of New York City for “humanitarian purposes” have met staunch resistance. The AP reports:
Mayor Bill de Blasio is pulling back the reins on his plans to quickly get rid of New York City's horse-drawn carriage industry, stung by a recent outpouring of support for the colorful coaches that have clip-clopped their way through Central Park for more than 150 years.
A campaign pledge to take on the horses during his first week as mayor was eclipsed by other issues. And as he nears his fourth month in office, he has encountered enough resistance from the usually compliant City Council to slow his plans again, now saying an industry he calls cruel and inhumane will be gone by year's end.
Why the pushback? Two reasons: an effective lobbying campaign to save the industry and…unions?
For one, a media blitz led by actor Liam Neeson has portrayed the horse-drawn carriage industry as an iconic, romantic part of New York that provides about 400 jobs, many to Irish immigrants. In a series of editorials and TV interviews, he has said the operators treat their 200 working horses like their own children.
"I can appreciate a happy and well-cared-for horse when I see one," Neeson wrote in an op-ed piece in The New York Times. "It has been my experience, always, that horses, much like humans, are at their happiest and healthiest when working."
The next blow came when a series of city unions — who usually are de Blasio's staunchest allies — broke with the mayor, urging him to reconsider his decision in order to save not only the industry's hundreds of jobs but a profitable source of tourism.
Mayor de Blasio hopes to soften the blow by replacing horses (he defines their treatment as “inhumane”) with old fashioned-looking electric cars -- a pledge he actually made during the last election.