De Blasio’s sneak attack on carriage horses

Read the original article by Liam Neeson at nydailynews.com here.

I’m writing about Mayor de Blasio’s alarming attempt to destroy the most beloved industry in New York: the carriage-horse trade. It harkens back to a simpler, more innocent time and is a visual and even spiritual oasis in the city. As you surely know, years ago, the mayor, in an effort to pay back a real estate developer who infused his campaign with lots of cash, tried to ban this picturesque and iconic symbol of the city, so the developer could raze the state-of-the-art stables on the West Side and build yet another glass and steel skyscraper. That is what all this is about.

I publicly invited the mayor to inspect the stables, to show him that the horses are superbly well-cared-for and well-regulated. But while City Council members eagerly accepted my invitation, de Blasio refused to come.

In this new effort, he has instructed the Department of Transportation to dismantle historic Belgian block paving stones without consulting the Landmarks Preservation Commission beforehand, pushing the carriages off Central Park South and away from Grand Army Plaza and the passing foot traffic.

This is yet another step in his endless death-by-a-thousand-cuts plan to go around the City Council, much the way President Trump is trying to go around Congress for his wall, and kill this 160-year-old vital part of New York’s tourist industry.

Boston has its swan boats; Venice has its gondolas; San Francisco has its cable cars. Central Park South without the carriages is unthinkable. I have also been made aware that there is a new bill in the City Council that would change the current 90-degree summer work stoppage rule to a 90-degree heat index, which equates to an 85-degree summer work stoppage. That too would decimate the industry.

I’m a naturalized American citizen who came here from Northern Ireland, from an area which wasn’t officially listed as “urban” until 1900. I grew up on a farm where plow horses are bred to pull wagons, as are the hearty steeds of Central Park. I’d wager that none of the demonstrators opposing this trade know the first thing about horses, and neither, clearly, does the DOT.

Were the horses mistreated, I would be the first one to protest. In fact, I assumed that the DOT and other city agencies would listen to the experts in the carriage industry who said that this rule change would be bad for the horses, and stop this nonsense.

Even while a re-argument and appeal process is just beginning in court, the DOT, at the behest of the mayor, has plowed ahead in demolishing and moving landmarked park features, following a plan that was never even contemplated during the rulemaking process, and was only presented once the lawsuit was served. The mayor didn’t dare consult the Landmarks Preservation Commission prior to the demolition, lest they put a halt to this insanity.

I’m a New Yorker. I live right off Central Park West and walk at least five days a week through the park when I can. It’s one of New York City’s treasures and it belongs to all of us — not just to the private political interests of Hizzoner. In order for the DOT to remove these Belgian block medians and move a water trough, there should have been a public process, including public hearings before the landmarks commission and all the surrounding Community Boards.

The simple reason the city did not consult with the Community Boards and their constituents is because this is the mayor fulfilling a campaign promise to a handful of wealthy donors.

Instead, the mayor is not only taking away the rights of carriage owners to operate their business; he’s taking away my rights and the rights of my neighbors and of all of New Yorkers to have a fair and proper process to ensure the protection of our landmarks.

Neeson is an actor.

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