New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who said after his election he would move aggressively on his campaign pledge to end the iconic tourist carriage trade, now expects the process will take until towards the end of the year.
He stressed he was still committed to introducing the ban.
Carriage-horse operators and allies have loudly opposed de Blasio’s plan, including actor Liam Neeson.
De Blasio said on Friday that he now expected the city council would take until later in the year to ban the trade.
He said: “A horse in the middle of the streets of Midtown doesn’t belong. I think a humane society doesn’t do that to animals and we have an alternative where we’ll have an opportunity for tourists to have a similar experience but without horses being a part of it.”
The carriage drivers and their supporters have voiced their fears over potential job losses and the loss of a well-known symbol of New York. They argue the animals are well looked after and are trained for the environment.
They do not believe the use of replica vintage electric vehicles as an alternative will work.
However, opponents argue that New York inner-city streets are no place for horses and it is cruel and dangerous for them to work in that environment.
De Blasio is upbeat about the prospects of the electric vehicle trade. “We’ll have an opportunity for jobs for folks,” he said.
The council bill was currently being drafted, he said.
Industry spokeswoman Christina Hansen has told local media that the carriage drivers are prepared to fight the council in court in a bid to keep operating.
She told the New York Daily News: “It’s not over. You cannot just get rid of a business, perfectly legal well-regulated … just because a few people don’t like it.
“If he wants to ban them because they’re dangerous and inhumane, he needs to prove that.
“Our record shows we take care of our horses and our horses are treated humanely.”