Update 1-8-2014: Steve Nislick, the de Blasio campaign donor at the center of this report, is no longer the CEO of Edison Properties, a company spokesman told TheBlaze in an email.
Nislick stepped down as CEO in 2012 and is no longer employed by the company.
When New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced recently that he’d make banning the city’s horse-drawn carriages his first priority, a lot of people were left asking, “Really?”
And there may be a reason why: A major de Blasio campaign donor and real-estate executive may be tied up in the drive to banish the iconic carriages, according to The American Spectator.
"It's got everything a scandal could ever want," Eva Hughes, vice-president of the Horse and Carriage Association of New York City, said in the report.
Hughes, who has spent years driving horse-drawn carriages around New York City, said the fight against de Blasio and his allies has taken on "David and Goliath" proportions.
The carriage drivers claim Steve Nislick, chief executive officer Edison Properties, is a driving force behind the ban.
Edison Properties "employs legions of lobbyists to influence city decisions on real estate and zoning in its favor," journalist Michael Gross reported in a 2009 article, adding that two of the company’s businesses "have multiple locations in the same Far West Midtown neighborhood as the stables where the Central Park horses are housed."
That property is worth a lot of cash.
And here’s something interesting from an anti-carriage brochure circulated in 2008: “Currently, the stables consist of 64,000 square feet of valuable real estate on lots that could accomodate [sic] up to 150,000 square feet of development. These lots could be sold for new development.”
So where does that leave us?
"What are the odds that good neighbor Nislick, the out-of-state real estate developer, simply covets those valuable, underdeveloped New York lots -- and has teamed up with ambitious pols to use the emotions of animal rights activists as fuel for their own agendas?" Gross asked.
And here’s where we get the de Blasio connection: A 501(c)4 group called New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets (NYCLASS) founded by Nislick dropped a lot of cash on the far-left candidate’s mayoral campaign, according to Crain's New York Business.
From the report:
Two major supporters of Democratic mayoral nominee Bill de Blasio, including his biggest campaign fundraiser, gave heavily to an outside group that targeted his primary rival City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, newly released records show.
The group, New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets (NYCLASS), spent nearly $124,000 on anti-Quinn phone banking and leafleting for the September primary election, which Mr. de Blasio won with more than 40% of the vote. NYCLASS also gave an above-the-legal-limit, six-figure donation to the anti-Quinn group "New York Is Not For Sale," which spent more than $1 million to defeat Ms. Quinn, and played a role in knocking the speaker from her frontrunner status early in the race. ...
In March, Mr. de Blasio, who also has taken direct donations from NYCLASS founder Steve Nislick and close associates, promised to the ban horse carriage industry in Central Park on his first day as mayor, a top priority for NYCLASS. ...
The newly filed records at the Campaign Finance Board also list the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals as making a $50,000 contribution to NYCLASS in March. Nonprofits registered as 501(c)3 entities such as the ASPCA are barred from giving political donations because charitable contributions to a 501(c)3 are tax-deductible.
However, it's important to note that there is no formal connection between Edison Properties and NYCLASS.
Now, alliances between special interest groups are neither illegal nor uncommon. But the horse carriage people are unhappy with the development between the real-estate mogul and “animal-rights activists.”
Nislick is "like a villain straight out of Central Casting ... an evil genius," Hughes said. "He's got the animal-rights people doing his bidding."
"We were screaming it from the rooftops, but we couldn't get anybody to pay attention," Hughes said, adding that"nobody's connected all the dots yet."
"This is a a blue-collar job," the Queens native added. "I got into this because I love horses."
A spokesperson for de Blasio’s office and Edison Properties did not immediately respond to the TheBlaze’s request for comment.
Click here to read more on the de Blasio horse carriage ban.
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This post has been updated.