Academy Award-winning actor Liam Neeson spoke out on behalf of horse-drawn carriage operators Sunday, telling Mayor Bill de Blasio to leave them alone, according to The New York Times.
"This is an industry that’s been here since before Abraham Lincoln’s first inauguration," he said. "A beautiful industry it is. It’s a connection with our past.”
Joined by about a dozen City Council members, Neeson toured the Clinton Park Stables on Manhattan’s West Side. He said that de Blasio – who campaigned on the promise to get rid of the century-long tourism draw – was missing from the group.
"He should have manned up and come," Neeson said.
Carriage drivers and union leaders organized the tour to show the horses are well treated, according to The Wall Street Journal
, which said more than 300 drivers and dozens of stable workers and others who help care for the horses would be out of work if carriages are banned.
De Blasio wants to replace the carriage rides with antique electric cars and says the drivers could segue into that.
"That’s a great employment opportunity for these same folks," the mayor said at a news conference, adding that he planned to meet with the drivers and tour the facilities "when the schedule allows."
"These guys don’t want to drive antique cars," said Demos Demopoulos, a spokesman for the union that represents the carriage drivers. "The public doesn’t want to ride in antique cars."
Republican City Councilman Vincent Ignizio wants the mayor to visit the stables before making a decision, according to the Journal.
Should the ban take effect, the horses would be sent to "rescue farms," though the New York Daily News
reported last year that could actually mean the animals land at a slaughterhouse due to the high cost of keeping retired horses and a lack of places to send them.
The paper reported that a "homeless horse" crisis already exists, and each year as many as 100,000 horses are sent to Canada and Mexico for slaughter.
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