In this article Steve Nislick, the wealthy real estate executive, defends his huge monetary backing on the issue of NY Central Horse Carriages. Many people have looked with askance at why he would want to end the traditional carriage rides. The land where the horse stalls are located is worth a great deal. Anyone reading up on the issue could put two and two together and conclude that he must be in it for the money. Mr. Nislick says that is not so. We really will not know the answer for some time. ~ HfH
By: Dana Rubinstein
As salt water eats away at New York City subways, mold sickens children living in public housing, and record numbers of New Yorkers flood homeless shelters, New York City’s political class has been compelled to reckon with a different issue entirely: the fate of the Central Park carriage horses.
The stubborn—and, for some officials, exasperating—prominence of this issue is due in large part to Steve Nislick, the low-profile former real estate executive whose wealth and skillful manipulation of the political process helped get Bill de Blasio elected mayor.
De Blasio, a former political operative who believes in honoring his debts, pledged before he took office to ban the iconic carriages in his first week in office.
The mayor failed to do that, but he has continued to talk about the issue and promise action on it, prompting anger from union groups, editorial boards and Liam Neeson, and causing increasing perplexity and discomfort among the Democrats in the City Council.
Above all, what de Blasio has done—or what Nislick has done, really—is take an issue affecting some 300 drivers, 200 horses and four horse stables on prime Manhattan real estate, and make it inescapable.
It’s the part about that land, pn the far West Side, that looks the funniest to people. It’s long been the source of innuendo—and more recently an explicit call-out by the editorial board of the New York Times—about what Nislick’s real motives are in trying to put the carriages out of business.
Nislick, a diminutive 70-year-old, says he gets that.
“Listen, I think people have a difficult time believing someone like myself would do this for the purpose that I did it,” he told Capital on Thursday, in conference room overlooking Fifth Avenue near Union Square, in his first interview since de Blasio became mayor. “They’re just like, I’m a real estate guy, I’m a business guy in a city that’s driven by money, and so, suspect.”
Still, he contends that’s unfair, and says the whole thing—the million-dollar ad campaign Nislick’s organization helped fund that sunk the mayoral hopes of then-Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and all the efforts to keep the pressure on since then—really is just about getting horses off the streets.
“It’s maybe low-down,” said Nislick, but animal rights is “part of a social justice agenda. So whether it’s living wage, affordable housing, or the proper treatment of animals, this country and this city in particular can afford to treat its animals fairly. And it hasn’t. It’s been probably the worst city in the United States for animal welfare.”