Mayor de Blasio can fight with the groundhog. He can fight with the governor. He can fight with charter-school lady Eva Moskowitz. But on this St. Patricks Day, hed be wise to drop his fight with the Irish.
De Blasio promised last year that his first act as mayor would be to kill 300 middle-class jobs, many held by Irish immigrants. "Here it goes," he pledged. "First thing, its time to ban horse carriages in New York."
Why? The horses are well-treated, as everybody (except the dont-bother-us-with-facts folks at PETA) knows by now.
Simple. A tiny cadre of donors showered the mayor with money last year — and savagely attacked rival Christine Quinn, too. They made clear that banning horses was their top priority. (Some of these folks seem to covet the horse stables on Manhattans Far West Side; others are radical animal-rightsers.)
The mayor is making good on his side of the deal. Last week, his top deputy said it was just taking more time than expected.
No wonder. When was the last time New York City banned an entire lawful industry?
"Its completely unprecedented," says Colm McKeever, an Irish immigrant who has driven a horse carriage for 25 years.
Sure, the smoking ban affected businesses — but it didnt outlaw any. Mike Bloomberg tried to ban sodas, but only the big ones. Rudy Giuliani once tried to ban porn shops and peep shows — and failed in court. In that case, the city figured that banning the legal sex trade would make it easier to crack down on illegal behavior like pimping on the streets by such establishments.
But how does the city ban a business that has done no harm to people or animals?
Thats doubtless whats giving the real brains in City Hall a headache. To ban the carriages on health and safety grounds, the city would need evidence — and there is none.
Plus, de Blasio has already prejudiced a weak case. By saying that a visit to the horse stables wouldnt change his mind, he made it clear that hes not interested in facts. Both courts that struck down Bloombergs soda ban noted the mayors interference with the scientific process.
Ban the carriages on transportation grounds? Still need that pesky evidence.
And thats impossible — because the mayor wants to replace the horse carriages with antique cars. Any study is going to find that cars go faster than horses. Letting 68 cars circle Central Park when its closed to other car traffic will endanger walkers, including children.
Plus, the city would also have to compensate carriage owners for their medallions and, possibly, drivers for lost income.
Carriage drivers, because of their higher skill level, easily make twice as much as cabbies. Replacing a lifetimes worth of income derived from 68 medallions could easily cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.
And the city cant argue that a license to drive an electric car is compensation enough. Antique cars failed in San Francisco.
"Weve been interviewing our customers," says McKeever. "Nobody wants to ride in a car. . . The tourist trade will be a laughingstock" around the world. (Despite the mayors words to the contrary, you can ride in a horse carriage in other global capitals, including London and Paris.)
And the carriage folks know all this.
Plus, they have business sympathy. The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce polled its members — mostly firms with 10 or fewer employees — and found that 76 percent want the horses to keep their jobs. "Theres always an underlying fear when any government entity starts to pressure one industry," says Nancy Ploeger, the CoC president.
They also have the citys unions, who last week told the mayor to back off.
They even have cool celebrities. Liam Neeson, who held an open house for politicians at the stables last week, "has been an unbelievable support," says McKeever. Jimmy Fallon, too, is on board. (And the mayor? He has Alec Baldwin.)
Most important, though, the carriage drivers have public opinion. A January Quinnipiac poll showed that 61 percent of voters want to keep the horse trade, "with support for the horses from every group." Only 28 percent want to see a ban.
Eleven percent were undecided — and its easy to figure out which way theyll decide, when they learn that banning horses involves spending taxpayer money to eliminate jobs for Italian, Turkish, Mexican and Brazilian immigrants, gridlock Central Park and endanger pedestrians.
De Blasio may figure hell lose in court, but can put up a show for the advocates first.
If so, its really cynical. "This is so stressful," says McKeever. This is all we talk about."
Kids overhear their parents worried conversations. The mayor should consider that on St. Patricks Day.
Original Source: http://nypost.com/2014/03/16/why-de-blasio-cant-ban-horse-carriages/