Sunday, August 21, 2011


Are More Taxpayer Subsidies on the Way? 

The carriage drivers are petitioning the City of NY for more favors. Will they get them?

A recent letter * published in the NY Times on August 12th, stated that as members of the City’s Rental Horse Advisory Board, the carriage drivers are petitioning for:
-- hitching posts
-- dedicated carriage lanes
-- microchips to identify the carriage horses

They are also “offering input into driver licensing by the Department of Consumer Affairs.”

Interesting material here.

Notice they say nothing about providing shade for their horses while on the hack line or doing something about the very hot asphalt on which the horses must stand for hours on end. Both of these suggestions were included on P. 11 of the NYC Comptroller Audit of the industry in 2007.

No – what they are suggesting will make it easier for the drivers, not the horses.

The Rental Horse Advisory Board operates secretively behind closed doors and does not share their information publicly – even though a recent opinion from the Committee on Open Government said that they were subject to the Freedom of Information Law. In their arrogance, they do not care. Most of the members of this “democratic” board, which is part of the Department of Health, are part of or favor the carriage industry.

In the parlance of the vernacular, it is sham board …. A joke.    

The items on which they have petitioned are proof that the industry is unsafe and that these slow moving, dangerous and flimsy carriages should not be clogging up the streets of New York City - one of the most traffic congested cities in the country.

The answer is to shut them down and not to offer more Taxpayer subsidies.

Hitching Posts: The drivers like to park their carriage and leave their horse unattended while they are waiting for customers. They might be talking with their friends or otherwise not paying attention. The horse is ignored. The accident that occurred on July 16th is a good example of what happens with this carelessness. A carriage horse on Central Park South was spooked when the carriage in front backed up and came too close. The horse panicked and bolted, galloping up Central Park South for two blocks, with an empty carriage tied to his back. He crashed into a parked car.

A similar thing happened in September 2007, when a 12-year-old mare named Smoothie, also tied to an empty carriage, spooked and bolted. However, she ran the opposite way into a tree and died on the spot. Another unattended horse ran across Central Park South and crashed into a car. He lived.

If both drivers had been attentive, they would have seen their horse becoming agitated and could have prevented the horse from spooking.

Many, many people want this industry to be shut down. Why should taxpayers have to pay for hitching posts for a private industry ruining an otherwise nice street? The drivers should pay attention to what they are doing or get out of the business.
And where exactly would these posts be … on Central Park South? … in front of the deli or Starbucks where the drivers have been seeing leaving their carriage unattended while they go into the store ... In Times Square?

Dedicated Carriage Lanes:  Wow, this is a presumptuous one – even more so because there are only 68 carriages operating at any given time.

Ninth Avenue is the street most used when the carriages return to their stables on the far west side of Manhattan. It is packed with traffic – four lanes plus parking on the east side of the street. Ninth Avenue is the corridor that leads to the Lincoln Tunnel and is crowded most any time of the day. Buses do not even have their own lane. Ambulances from Roosevelt Hospital are a frequent part of the traffic congestion. It has been the site of several accidents. In 2006, a horse named Spotty, returning to his stable was spooked. He bolted and galloped into traffic throwing his driver who was hospitalized in a coma. Spotty crashed into a station wagon at 9th Avenue and 50th Street, wrapping around the top with his head on the ground. He was so badly injured that he was euthanized on the spot.

Tenth Avenue is the route most followed for the drivers to return to their stables.  It is just as congested as Ninth Avenue.   

Special lanes will not have any impact on the nature of the horse.   

By nature, horses are prey animals and will spook at the slightest provocation. At upwards of 2,000 pounds, they become unwitting weapons and can kill themselves or anyone who is in the way. There have been many accidents around the world where this has happened. In 2007, a five-year-old girl fell from a horse in a parade and was trampled and killed by spooked carriage horses. Last year, in an Iowan parade, a woman fell out of the carriage after the horse spooked. She was killed.

Within Central Park: The carriages share these roads with bikers, roller bladders and joggers.

A special lane – I don’t think so. Why should people enjoying the park give up part of the road for carriages? Carriage wheels have damaged the asphalt and the repair expenses are picked up by the City. Why is this?

Central Park South or 59th Street is adjacent to the park and is another street used often. The carriages are already clogging up the north side by the park. Double lanes go in both direction and this is the site of many illegal u-turns.

Microchips to identify the carriage horses: this is my “favorite” and the most sinister and transparent. What does that mean in the NY Times letter “to identify horses.” By whom? The auctions certainly do not have wands to find a missing carriage horse.

The only reason to microchip the horses is to make it more difficult for the public to identity them when there is a problem – or to find them at the auctions. There have been many situations when people have noticed problems with horses and have been able to report them to the authorities.

Micro chipping does not make sense. This is not the same as for cats and dogs who should be micro chipped because they could get lost and end up at the kill shelter. Wanding these animals could reunite them with their guardians.

But carriage horses do not run away. The 4-digit number engraved on their hoof needs to remain. It is the only way to hold this industry to some degree of accountability. This is how we have found carriage horses in auctions. This is how witnesses have identified horses with problems. On June 25, 2010, we found Bobby, a NYC carriage horse at a kill auction. Read his story here. We were able to trace him back to West Side Livery Stable because of his 4-digit hoof number.

Input into driver licensing by the Dept of Consumer Affairs – another joke

-- how about some laws that prohibit the drivers to refrain while driving from using their cell phones, turning around to take pictures, reading magazines and newspapers, standing up while driving, making u-turns on Central Park South, using their horse as a battering ram to negotiate traffic – and eating. That would go a long way into making the streets safer. And what about all those drivers who do not have a NYS Driver license?

The carriage trade is a small industry in NYC consisting of no more than 300 people, many of whom are part time. The Teamsters Union that represents them does so as a lobby group because they do not offer a real union shop to the drivers. While dues are collected, it is only to pay for the Teamsters’ time – it is not for medical or vacation benefits.

Real union members should be very upset about this.

For years, the City of New York has catered to this very small but politically connected industry. Shamrock Stable was renting a city owned site on W. 45th St. at a subsidized rate of $5,000 per month – real estate that on the open market went for $60,000. According to a New York Times article, they had been subsidized by the City for over 40 years. $55,000 per year times X number of years. Yes – that is a lot of money that could have gone toward education, senior centers or keeping the hospitals open.

Do other businesses fare so well with these kinds of deals? No they don’t. If they are not able to afford a location, they have to find one they can. Simple economics.

Why should this industry garner favors and be catered to over all the other small businesses – restaurants, clothing boutiques, food stores, coffee shops, restaurants – all those who have had to close their doors because they could not afford the rent.

So time will tell whether the City will once again cater to this small but privileged industry and give them what they want at taxpayer expense … for a cash only business.

* This is the direct link to the NY Times letter page if the embedded link does not work. 


photos show traffic on 9th Avenue and Columbus Circle; a deadly accident at 9th Avenue and 50th St. on 1/2/2006; Smoothie's death; Bobby's hoof number; driver using cell phone while driving


Hell Raiser said...

NY taxpayers are fed up with the wink-wink, nod-nod and giveaways handed out time and again to this cruel industry. It is long past time to rid our city of this archaic "amusement" which is under the radar of every agency charged with overseeing it. There is no way to properly monitor or control the conditions for the horses who are overworked, "underpaid" and living under inhumane conditions in a busy metropolis that looks the other way as they are exploited and abused. Enough already!

rrrina said...

This abusive industry is corrupt through and through. It must be banned, period.