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Dueling Rallies Held As City Council Considers Ban On Horse-Drawn Carriages

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Banning horse-drawn carriages in New York City was one of Mayor Bill de Blasio's campaign promises, and on Monday, he took one step closer to keeping that promise when his bill was proposed before the City Council.

As CBS2's Hazel Sanchez reported, supporters and opponents staged dueling rallies on the steps of City Hall as the Council discussed the bill Monday.

The legislation would take several steps to eliminate horse-drawn carriages, including not renewing licenses to operate carriage horses. Those licenses are set to expire in 2016.

Dueling Rallies Being Held As City Council Considers Ban On Horse-Drawn Carriages

Mayor de Blasio's proposal would include an effort to find a new mode of touring transportation to replace the horse-drawn carriages, such as electric cars, and offering horse-carriage drivers green taxi permits, CBS2's Sanchez reported.

"We should be able to create a win-win situation where those hard working men and women that depend on this industry they should get a good job to continue to bring their income to the family," said Upper Manhattan City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, D-10th.

Under the bill, homes would be found for horses at animal sanctuaries, 1010 WINS' Sonia Rincon reported.

Horse Carriage Rally
Supporters of New York City's horse carriage industry hold a rally outside City Hall on Dec. 8, 2014. (credit: Sonia Rincon/1010 WINS)

Animal-welfare activists and others have long pressed to get rid of the carriage horses. They say Manhattan traffic is no place for a horse.

Dueling Rallies Being Held As City Council Considers Ban On Horse-Drawn Carriages

"As an animal rights activist, which I consider myself, the question before us today is 'do horses really belong in traffic in New York City?'" the bill's sponsor, Queens City Councilman Daniel Dromm, D-25th, said at Monday's rally. "And I think the overwhelming majority of New Yorkers would have to say 'no.'"

Supporters of the legislation held signs with grisly pictures of horse-carriage accidents and horses down on the pavement, WCBS 880's Rich Lamb reported.

"Many times before, the carriage horses work and live in inhumane conditions," said Joyce Friedman of The Humane Society of the United States. "Horses may be easily spooked by vehicles or other loud noises and put themselves and others at risk."

But hansom cabbies said they will not stop fighting to protect their livelihood.

"It will be a cold day in hell – a cold day in hell – before any of you touch one of my horses or my colleagues' horses," said carriage industry spokesman Stephen Malone. "These are our horses! There's nobody taking our horses away from us!"

They said the ban would take away a long-standing New York tradition and the livelihood of some 300 men and women.

"A lot of my colleagues who own their own small business here are having their small business shut," Christina Hansen told Sanchez. "They have kids. They have mortgages. They can't just pack up and leave and go someplace else that is horse friendly, that likes horses. What are they going to do?"

Horse Carriage Rally
Supporters of New York City's horse carriage industry hold a rally outside City Hall on Dec. 8, 2014. (credit: Sonia Rincon/1010 WINS)

Some hansom cabbies also balked at the idea of having to switch to driving electric cars.

"I do not want to drive an electric car," said hansom cab driver Peter Wilson, "not today, not yesterday, not ever."

Donny Moss, who directed a documentary about the carriage industry, however, argued that those who oppose the legislation will be on the wrong side of history.

"Tradition and jobs are not an excuse for the inhumane treatment of animals," he said.

Some City Council members also spoke against the proposed ban, saying it would drive hansom cab drivers out of business.

"If people want to sit together, and come up with some sort of compromise, people are willing to listen," said Staten Island City Councilman Vinnie Ignizio, R-51st. "But an outright ban makes no sense for this industry. Particularly around this time of year, we shouldn't be putting people out of work. We should be putting more people to work."

De Blasio initially said he wanted to ban the horses from city streets during his first week in office. It's too soon to tell if the bill will have the 26 City Council member votes it needs to pass. The vote is not expected to happen until early next year.

The city has to conduct an environmental study on the proposal before the bill can go to a vote.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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