The New York Daily News reports:
“Leaders of the city’s most powerful unions — including many of Mayor de Blasio’s staunchest allies — are balking at his plans to banish horse carriages from city streets.
“The Central Labor Council, an umbrella group representing more than 1.3 million workers, fired off a letter to de Blasio and the City Council pleading with them not to axe the “iconic and thriving industry.”
“‘As one of New York City’s top three tourist attractions, the industry provides millions of dollars in revenue as well as hundreds of reliable, well-paying middle-class jobs,’ the letter reads.”
The key phrase here may be “including many of Mayor de Blasio’s staunchest allies”.
“The signers included United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew; Hector Figueroa, head of the service workers union SEIU Local 32BJ, and Central Labor Council President Vincent Alvarez. It’s the first time any union leader has spoken out against a de Blasio policy,” the report continues.
This illustrates what is really at the center of this hotly debated issue, and it does not appear to be the horses. From the beginning it has come across as almost exclusively political. If it truly is about the safety and welfare of the horses, strictly speaking it is difficult to make a case for keeping them.
The recent Open House at Clinton Park, one of the stables that houses off-duty carriage horses and attended under mega-watt publicity generated by Liam Neeson, did not help the side of the carriage horse drivers. It demonstrated to those who understand horses what they already know, that these type of stables are anything but ideal living conditions for horses. To those who have seen nothing else or have differing standards, they probably appear perfectly fine.
Insofar as the yearly turnout where horses can graze and just be horses for awhile — referred to as “vacations” — there seems to be no tours of that in the works or anyone coming forward to say, yes they entertain some of the New York carriage horses on their property for awhile every year. But say that happened. Would that make the case of the carriage horse drivers stronger? It would dispel the notion that the horses are not sent on “vacation” at all but in reality sent to work for the Amish, an accusation made by the groups against horse drawn carriages. However, whatever the truth of that is, horses need regular turnout not just a few weeks a year. They certainly do not need to be sent on “working holidays” after months of toiling in the city.
Perhaps the argument that is most often used is that the carriage horse business in New York is highly regulated. It may be. But we all know no matter how many regulations you have and how well-intentioned they are, if there is no one around to enforce them then they are essentially useless.
Given the circumstances surrounding horse drawn carriages in the hustle and bustle of New York — the elements, the traffic, the noise, the pollution, 9 hours shifts (I was told by drivers when I lived in New York that they work two horses per day, not a single horse for one long day — perhaps that is done by some), available housing — it just does not seem a tenable proposition.
How serious Mayor de Blasio’s threat to close the carriage horse industry down remains to be seen. The following may give us a hint.
The same report states:
“Although de Blasio said during his campaign the ban would be one of his first acts as mayor, First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris said Monday the carriages will be around for a while.
“‘We’ve got a fair amount of work to do on how we’re going to execute on that commitment,’ Shorris said.”
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Featured Photo Credit: A horse is led down the ramp at the West Side Stables in New York City. (Amy Pearl/WNYC)