CENTRAL PARK — Pedicab drivers are accusing Mayor Bill de Blasio of overlooking them in a deal struck on Monday that would ban them from parts of Central Park, saying it favors the horse-drawn carriage industry by eliminating competition.
The city announced Monday its plan to ban pedicabs below the 85th Street Transverse in Central Park as part of an agreement with the horse-drawn carriage industry that would decrease the number of carriages on the road and limit their service range to the park.
The deal was announced overnight from Sunday into Monday morning, and later explained as a way to level the playing field.
"We’re obviously introducing a new element into Central Park with the horses, and I think it’s a good choice — I think that’s where they belong — but we had to make an adjustment in terms of the pedicabs for balance, and I think it’s a fair outcome," de Blasio said during a press conference on Monday.
But the roughly one hundred pedicab drivers who showed up at City Hall on Tuesday to rally against the deal disagreed, saying the ban came as a surprise and threatened the very existence of their livelihoods.
"Where the demand is, they want to completely eliminate competition and create a monopoly," pedicab driver Ibrahim Donmez, 32, told DNAinfo New York on Monday. “This will really cut down my income and it will push me to try to find another job.”
“This was done behind closed doors,” Donmez continued. “We were never involved in this conversation that everyone was talking about. It sounds like they’re trying to do this very quickly.”
Assan C., a 31-year-old pedicab driver from Astoria, who supports his family by driving his pedicab and as an Uber driver, said he couldn’t understand the logic of putting the pedicab drivers’ jobs in jeopardy behind the scenes.
“Why was this done overnight?” he said. “If they want to talk to us … we have ideas. We can make it better for New York.”
The pedicab owners say the city’s plans to keep them north of 85th Street will devastate their business.
Donmez, who has been pedaling people around Central Park for about a decade, said Central Park is where the business is — especially below the 85th Street Transverse where all the tourists are.
And picking up in Midtown is not a good alternative since Uber has taken 75 percent of pedicabs' business there and realtors and property owners don't want them around, he added.
Pedicab driver and Harlem resident Steven Geary agreed.
"It’s simple — if we can’t work below 85th Street, it’s finished,” the 39-year-old said.
“There’s nothing there,” another driver — who declined to be identified — added. “This is a ploy…a tool to make the horse-and-carriage drivers happy.”
Donmez said the city won’t be met without a fight.
“It’s not going to go through easily with language that includes pedicabs,” he said. “Sorry, that’s not going to happen.”
There are roughly 830 pedicabs currently licensed by the city, according to the city's OpenData website.
When reached for comment on Tuesday, a spokeswoman for City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito pointed to the councilwoman’s answers at a press conference on Tuesday, in which she said legislation has not yet been introduced and that the city will have the opportunity to hear from all sectors involved before it holds a public hearing on Feb. 4.