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Critics: De Blasio Horse Carriage Deal Is Political Favor, Will Cost Many Jobs

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio talks about creating jobs and paying people at least $15 per hour, but some have questioned whether he is walking the walk.

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, critics said in the recent deal overhauling horse carriages in Central Park, the money did some of the talking. And they said it was not the only time.

De Blasio's plan would reduce the number of carriage horses operating in Central Park, and also use public funds to move horses to a refurbished stable within the park. The plan would prohibit horses from city streets beginning June 1.

The total number of horses would also drop from 220 to 75, Kramer reported.

The number of hours per day a carriage may operate will be reduced, and carriages will be able to charge an extra $5 for trips after 6 p.m. between Nov. 15 and Jan. 5, and on Valentine's Day or Easter.

Carriage driver Ian McKeever said his horse, Lucky, could lose his job and even his life as a result of the deal.

"What about the horses?" McKeever said. "The most important thing in this whole thing is jobs, and especially the horses."

McKeever, a horse carriage driver for 28 years, is furious about the de Blasio horse carriage deal.

"He doesn't care about my job. He doesn't care about my stablemen's jobs," McKeever said. "We're middle class, hardworking people with an awful lot of minority drivers in this business, who are going to also lose their jobs. I thought he was about the minorities. I thought he would help the minorities."

McKeever went on to level a serious charge.

"This is payback for him," he said.

McKeever claimed the deal was payback to political donors who are either interested in the valuable West Side real estate where the stables are located, or are animal rights activists.

A total of 175 jobs in the horse carriage industry will be lost under the deal, and there have been more than $1 million in political donations to help de Blasio from those with interests in the horse carriage industry, Kramer reported.

And it is not the first time. Last year, the mayor was all set to rein in Uber cars – reportedly to help protect yellow cabs.

A total of 10,000 job opportunities could have been lost, and over $550,000 was donated to the mayor by yellow cab interests, Kramer reported.

De Blasio spokesman Wiley Norvell issued a response saying the mayor has everyone's best interests in mind.

"What motivates the administration is doing what's best for the city, for the men and women who perform this work, and for the animals," Norvell said in a statement.

But Queens City Councilman Rory Lancman (D-24th) said he believes politics are involved.

"I've been involved in politics for a long time. I think I have a pretty good antenna when I see politics, and really, this is a political situation from start to finish," Lancman said. "The horses are well-taken care of. The drivers and the stable hands have good jobs. There's no need for us to be making any kind of change."

Lancman said he does not want to see disruptions to the carriage industry and the pedicab industry, which will also lose jobs in the deal.

"Really, so that, you know, a political debt can be repaid," Lancman said, "It's unfortunate."

The issue of horses in Central Park has been a long, ongoing debate between the de Blasio administration, the horse carriage industry and animal activists.

Animal rights advocates have been fighting to get the carriages banned entirely and de Blasio had pledged to end the popular carriage rides in favor of electric old-time style cars that would still appeal to tourists.

The carriage and pedicab drivers said they will go to court.

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