January 15, 2016
By Gloria Pazmino and Dana Rubenstein
The city is considering using taxpayer dollars to renovate stables in Central Park as part of a deal to severely downsize the horse carriage industry and keep it confined to the landmarked greensward, according to several sources.
The offer came as part of a series of ongoing negotiations among the city, the City Council and the horse carriage drivers’ union, in an effort to help Mayor Bill de Blasio fulfill his campaign promise to abolish the horse-carriage trade.
Several sources confirmed to POLITICO New York the final language on the deal still is being negotiated, but that the city is considering financing the renovation of a building in the park now used by the parks department.
The prospect that the city would renovate a public building in a public park and then turn it over to a private entity strikes some park advocates as potentially problematic, particularly since the city declined to say if the horse stables would be available for public use.
Nor would the city say if the horse stables would pay rent to the city, like a park concession typically does.
“We hope that the administration will look at all of the issues before making a decision,” said Tupper Thomas, the executive director of New Yorkers for Parks. “If it’s actually true that the city would spend tax dollars on restoring a building in Central Park for a private entity, it brings up a lot of difficult issues and may set a precedent that is not a good one.”
The mayor told reporters on Friday morning that talks were ongoing and that an announcement would be made when the agreement is final.
“It’s an ongoing discussion like so many other things between the executive branch and the legislative branch,” de Blasio said.
For now, the parties have agreed to decrease the number of horses from 220 to 75, with a remainder of 20 horses living off-site. The horses will be moved from their current stables on the West Side to a building near the Central Park 86th Street Transverse that’s now used by the city.
The deal also includes several stipulations to give the horses more comfortable quarters, which would require the extensive renovations in order to build stalls of at least 100 square feet each.
Any renovations in the landmarked park are also expected to require a substantial public review process.
A spokesperson for de Blasio declined to comment.