CITY HALL — The City Council introduced legislation Monday that would ban the carriage horse industry in the Big Apple.
Supporters and opponents of the legislation gathered outside City Hall before the bill was introduced to try and rally New Yorkers to their side in dueling press conferences.
Under the legislation, the drivers would have three different options if the horse industry is banned: The carriage drivers could apply for green taxi medallions, get job retraining or drive electric vehicles that would replace the horse carriages following a request for proposals.
"No one is going to be left out," said Allie Feldman, executive director of NYCLASS, the animal rights group pushing for the ban. "Everyone can come to the table, find alternative employment and move on."
The legislation was introduced at the behest of Mayor Bill de Blasio, who promised to ban the industry as soon as he took office during his campaign, but has run up against repeated roadblocks in that effort.
Animal rights activists say forcing horses to work in an urban environment amounts to cruelty, while opponents of the ban say that the industry provides good jobs and that horse owners take good care of the animals.
"This industry [is] an iconic part of New York City," said Councilman Costa Constantinides. "This is not an animal rights issue. This is a worker's issue."
Opponents of the ban, including several council members, said there's no need for it because the industry is safe and the proposal unnecessarily eliminates 300 good-paying, union jobs.
"We value workers in this town," Councilman I. Daneek Miller said at a protest outside City Hall.
The legislation will go through the transportation committee, which is headed by Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, who is in favor of the ban.
But Councilman Rafael Espinal, who is against the ban, felt the legislation should come through the consumer affairs committee, which he chairs. Nevertheless, he predicted the ban would not pass in the council.
"We have the votes to make sure this bill is opposed," he said.
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has previously voiced support for the ban but declined to speculate Monday on whether the bill would be approved.
"As with any bill, it's going through the legislative process," she said.
An environmental study on the proposal must be conducted and hearings will be held before the bill comes up for a vote sometime next year. Feldman said she expects a vote in June 2015.