NEW YORK — Mayor Bill de Blasio is pulling back the reins on his plans to quickly get rid of New York City’s horse-drawn carriage industry, stung by a recent outpouring of support for the colorful coaches that have clip-clopped through Central Park for over 150 years.
A campaign vow to take on the industry in his first week as mayor was eclipsed by other issues. And as he nears his fourth month in office, he has encountered enough resistance from the usually compliant City Council to slow his plans again, now saying an industry he calls cruel and inhumane will be gone by year’s end.
For one, a media blitz led by actor Liam Neeson has portrayed the industry as an iconic, romantic part of New York that provides about 400 jobs, many to Irish immigrants. In a series of editorials and TV interviews, he has said the operators treat their 200 working horses like their own children.
‘‘I can appreciate a happy and well-cared-for horse when I see one,’’ Neeson wrote in an op-ed in The New York Times. ‘‘It has been my experience, always, that horses, much like humans, are at their happiest and healthiest when working.’’
The next blow came when a series of city unions — which usually are de Blasio’s staunchest allies — broke with the mayor, urging him to reconsider his decision in order to save jobs and a big source of tourism.
A recent poll revealed that nearly two-thirds of New Yorkers were in favor of keeping the horses at least in Central Park and were lukewarm on de Blasio’s plan to put the horse drivers to work instead giving rides in old-timey electric cars.
For now, de Blasio and the animal rights activists who donated to his campaign and the campaigns of anticarriage City Council candidates are standing firm in the belief that the city is no place for horses. People for Ethical Treatment of Animals launched a campaign with celebrities of its own .