The animal rights group that made carriage horses a central focus of the 2013 mayoral election has given up on its crusade to get Mayor de Blasio to ban them — even if it hasn’t given up its strong opinion of the industry.
“Do we think the industry is an inherently cruel industry? Yes,” Steve Nislick, one of the two developers behind NYCLASS, said in an editorial board meeting with The News on Friday.
“But that doesn’t mean we’re not willing to compromise.”
The group, which stridently called for the end of the industry in 2013 and launched a well-funded campaign against then-front-runner Christine Quinn that helped bolster de Blasio’s bid, has hired new advisers and is rolling out a new strategy after getting nowhere on a ban.
De Blasio had promised to enact it on day one of his administration but was stymied by the City Council and public pushback, including from the Daily News.
The paper ran a “Save Our Horses” campaign.
“We achieved nothing, except perhaps created some bad will which we have to address, so obviously our strategy had to change,” said Wendy Neu, Nislick’s main partner behind the effort, adding the group had been too antagonistic.
While they still believe the animals could be replaced by electric cars — and offered them free to any driver who might try it out — the duo says they will no longer seek the end of the industry.
They will instead advocate for changes that will provide “much greater protection for the horses.”
At the top of their wish list is ending carriage rides through Times Square — they want to see fares limited to within Central Park. They’d also like to see the minimum stall size boosted beyond 60 square feet, a change in how horses get their shoes, and a guarantee retired carriage horses are never slaughtered.
But they are no longer calling for existing stables on the West Side of Manhattan to be moved inside the park, which wound up being one of the many sticking points that led to the collapse of a compromise attempt in 2016.
Keeping the stables where they are means the horses would have to take some streets en route to the park to pick up fares — but NYCLASS offered preliminary ideas to make that safer.
“Let them use the bike lane. They fit in the bike lane. The street cleaners use the bike lane. There would be a heavy use of it in the morning and then at night,” Nislick said. “We don’t want them going through Columbus Circle.”
But at least one carriage driver wasn’t buying it. “The streets of New York City have never been safer,” Christina Hansen said, citing the mayor’s Vision Zero program. “Why should we take away space from bicyclists or somebody else to put in a carriage lane when there’s no reason to?”
“The streets of New York City have never been safer,” Christina Hansen said, citing the mayor’s Vision Zero program. “Why should we take away space from bicyclists or somebody else to put in a carriage lane when there’s no reason to?”
Nor did Hansen believe in the idea of a kinder, gentler NYCLASS — deeming them a “radical extremist group” and arguing the industry need not compromise with them because they are not a stakeholder with a seat at the table.
She argued they can’t walk back their prior insistence that drivers were abusers who harmed their animals and expect them to work with NYCLASS.
“You can’t unring that bell,” she said.
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