Friday, September 26, 2014

Icons of Misery: Take a Good Look Around the Hack Line

Look down the next time you visit the hack line. There's more misery than you may know.

It's difficult not to recognize the horses' suffering. Exploited for greed and entertainment, the NYC carriage horse is an icon of misery. These dispirited horses travel up to 4 miles a day in heavy traffic, suffer concussive injuries and lameness from pounding the pavement, and don't get enough water.

New York City carriage horses also must share their feed with starving pigeons. This contaminates the feed and puts horses at risk for illness.

It's not an anomaly, it's the norm. The carriage drivers don't discourage it. In fact, they often throw feed on the filthy ground.

Picture it: New York City carriage horses stand around
in excessive heat and cold waiting for fares. The horses are watered inadequately and eat feed that is tainted with pigeon droppings.

Miserable, right? It's bad for the horses and it endangers the lives of the pigeons, who frequently fall victim to the wheels of the carriage.

This happened during our September demo & outreach event. The poor hungry birds are there one minute, gone the next. As always, one of our activists took the pigeon's body into the park, out of respect.
A ban critic recently said that the horses are happy and the pigeons are, too.  I recommend that everyone wake up and take a good look around the hack line--and don't forget to look down.

The ban will make New York City a better place.

Side note: Pigeons are wonderful creatures. An August 2014 Epoch Times cover story ("New York Too Busy to Care? Center Rescues City's Injured Birds") warned against bird bigotry and gave us a history lesson on the heroic birds. The reporter wrapped it up by saying, "By the time I had done an elementary Google search, I was ready to get down on the ground and salute them."

Monday, September 22, 2014


Editor's Note:  this is revised as of 9/27/14 based on new information concerning the Department of Transportation.  See highlighted area below. 

No place for a horse … 

Teamsters and carriage drivers put horse in harm's way by using him in the Climate March ... and it was illegal.

The first ever People’s Climate March was held in NYC on Sunday September 21st.    It was wall to wall people – estimates of  350,000 – some were as high as 400,000.  Lots of noise – bands, drummers, rolling crowd whoop – when that happened, it was so loud, I had to cover my ears.  I got there at 10:30 and it was not until 1:00 pm that we began to move – by baby steps.  It was exciting and exhilarating - a great time for people. 

But never for horses. 

At 3:25 into this video from the March organizers, a moment of silence is held followed by sounding the “climate alarm,” which translated into people shouting as loud as they could, banging drums, using noise makers.  This happened many times  during the march.   I call this a “rolling crowd whoop” because it started at the front of the march and made its way back.  During the march, there was a mix of chants, bands, drums, parade noise – sometimes so loud it would rattle your ear drums.    

It was no place to bring a horse. 

this is an example of the constant noise level of the march - video taken on 42nd St. 

It was no place to bring a horse.

The People’s Climate March organizers said there would be no horses in the march  -- for obvious reasons.

But that did not stop the carriage drivers.    There they were with a horse-drawn carriage in the middle of the crowded march.  The horse did not look relaxed.   The horse did not have a choice.  Talk about narcissistic, selfish and greedy.    And cruel.  Very, very cruel. 
Carriage horse pimped out by drivers; Although wearing blinders, his eyes look terrified

And Illegal! 

On Sundays, the horse-drawn carriages are allowed to work only in Central Park until 7pm, after which they can go into certain areas of the city.
Drivers must apply to the Department of Transportation for a variance if they would like to work their horse carriage outside of the existing regulations.  They did not. This was confirmed by the Manhattan Borough Commissioner.  She told me that no request was made and if it had been, they would have denied it because of the danger of a 2,000 pound horse in the march.   
§   19-175   Variance  for  special  events.  a.  Notwithstanding  the  provisions of section 20-381.1 of the code, the owner or operator  of  a  horse  drawn cab may apply for a variance from the provisions of section  20-381.1 for the limited purpose of carrying out a contract to provide a  horse  drawn “cab” for the “filming” of a “movie,” “television show” or “commercial; or for a wedding, parade, or other special event as shall be  defined  by  the commissioner by rule. The commissioner shall grant such  variance when he or she determines that the issuance  of  such  variance  would  not have an adverse effect on vehicular or pedestrian congestion,  commencement of theatrical productions or public safety.   
b. A variance application shall be in such form as prescribed  by  the  commissioner  and  shall  be submitted to the commissioner no fewer than  three business days prior to  the  date  of  the  event  for  which  the  variance is requested.
c.  The  commissioner  may  require  the  payment  of  an  application  processing fee in an amount to be established by rule.
d. The commissioner shall issue a document  specifying  the  variance.  Whenever  a  horse drawn cab is being operated in accordance with a duly  issued variance, such variance shall be carried by the  driver  of  such  horse  drawn  cab  and  shall be produced upon the demand of any police,  traffic, parks  or  other  enforcement  officer  authorized  to  enforce  section 20-381.1 of the code.
e.  Use  of  a variance by any person other than the person to whom it  was issued, or for any purpose other than the purpose for which  it  was  issued,  shall subject the person using such variance to a civil penalty  of not less than five hundred dollars.

 This is a very serious offense but I can guarantee that no one will be fined because of the fear of Teamster retaliation.   The carriage drivers put everyone at risk -- the horse, them and the many march participants.  Since our campaign began in 2006, we have documented many spooking accidents in which  people have been trampled by spooked and bolting horses and died from their injuries.  

 Horses are very sensitive creatures and their nature should be respected.  They have acute hearing and don’t like loud noises. The danger of putting a horse in this kind of noisy parade environment is that he could spook and bolt, hurting himself and others.  But even if he did not spook, it was cruel to subject him to such a stressful environment to make a point about jobs.

Many of these drivers do not deserve to be the custodians of such precious animals - animals they consider property - like a car or television.   The horses are clearly a means to an end – to bring in income -  and when they do not make the grade anymore, most are laundered through the Amish farmers on their way to auction and then slaughter.  The law does not require records for horses sold outside NYC as most are.   

Because they have no shame and are insensitive to being hypocrites,  the drivers carried signs that read “ Teamsters – climate justice” and “Teamsters – green jobs.”

These are the very same Teamsters that  support the Keystone XL Pipeline.  

The Keystone XL pipeline has been called the pipeline to environmental disaster.   Does anyone see the hypocrisy here?  Teamsters marching in an environmental issues parade.  This is how the march was unfortunately co-opted by special interest groups that have no interest in environmental justice but just want the photo op. 


Tuesday, September 16, 2014


We remember Smoothie...
12-year old carriage horse  who died on the street seven years ago
September 16, 2014

One of the most tragic incidents in recent history in the NYC carriage trade occurred in the late afternoon of September 14, 2007 on the hack line bordering Central Park.  A 12-year old mare named Smoothie, hooked to a carriage, was waiting for a fare.  In other words -- she was "parked."  Her driver was obviously not paying attention to her – probably off talking to his buddies.

It is illegal to leave your horse unattended and untethered, which Smoothie undoubtedly was.  This is nothing new, we see it often.  The street laws are generally not enforced.  They were not then and they are not now.  The driver should have been near Smoothie holding her by a lead line.  If he had done the right thing, he might have prevented Smoothie’s death.  

Horses can spook very unexpectedly and easily – but they often give you a clue - a little advance warning  that they are having an anxiety attack.      Smoothie spooked at something   perhaps a loud noise -  and tore down the street, hitting a tree.  She died on the spot. Poor girl, she deserved much better. 

A second horse – also unattended – was unnerved  by Smoothie, broke free and ran into traffic, crashing into a car.  The passengers were not injured but one of the women said that when she saw the horse coming at them, she was very frightened and thought it was over. 

Smoothie was owned by Cornelius Byrne who was arrested just weeks  later and charged with bribery.  He received a slap on the wrist but eventually lost his license – apparently only for a short time since he is still in the business.  

This is a very upsetting photo but we need to bear witness to these kinds of tragedies so it makes
our argument that much stronger.  I saw this particular photo recently for the first time and I was very moved and saddened.  Other photos published at the time showed Smoothie dead on the ground.  But this is Smoothie with her head up, dying, and no one is comforting or petting her in her agony.  I cannot imagine loving an animal as the carriage industry claims to do and then to ignore the most basic expression of compassion.  Look at the body language of the men surrounding her – hands on the hips, looking at her with disdain – probably thinking about the financial loss.  

This is a sampling of some letters published in the NY Post at the time.  

Although it happened seven years ago, this is the type of accident that could happen tomorrow.  It is a horse’s nature to spook.  At 1,500 to 2,000 pounds, when they bolt, they become unwitting weapons and can kill themselves or innocent passersby.  They do not belong in the congestion of NYC.  Please read It's a Safety Issue. 

Council Members who are are opposed to a ban are choosing a small group of people over the welfare of the public at large.  


Saturday, September 13, 2014


NYC Carriage Drivers Behaving Badly

They whitewash their license plates; do not pay attention to the road, make illegal U-turns; leave their horses unattended and pull them by the bit - and still this tiny (but protected) industry manages to survive. WHY do these violations matter? Because failure to adhere to these basic laws—and basic rules of horsemanship—endangers the public safety.

this is a post on Buzzfeed.  Please click here to see it.   

Here are a few examples from the post:

White washed license plate

Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages
Why make it easy to report a violation?

Parked over a steaming manhole cover

no concern for the possibility that it could EXPLODE! as many have done in Manhattan. Not to mention that it must be uncomfortable for the horse.
Mickey Z

Wrong way on a one-way street

Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages
Seems that the driver forgot his street map, because he is traveling north-east—illegally—on a street that goes south-west. Cops? nowhere to be found.

“Unattended and Untethered”

Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages
perfect recipe for a “spook and bolt.” If something happened and this horse spooked and bolted into traffic, his driver would not be able to stop him. This is very unprofessional and irresponsible behavior.

This can happen when horses spook!

Smoothie’s driver left her unattended and untethered at the hack line and was not paying attention. A loud noise spooked Smoothie and her driver was not close enough to calm her. She bolted and ran into a tree where she hit her head and died. She was only 12 years old.


Open letter concerning the horse-drawn carriage issue
September 11, 2014

Dear Council Members:  We elect our representatives because we hope that they will make smart, fair, ethical  and informed decisions on issues that concern us and our City.    We also expect that our elected representatives will not be a mouth piece for any union - especially one that does not play fair – and especially the Teamsters.  Any time this happens, they are helping to kill democracy and fair play.   It gives the perception of a deal made and it is ugly.    The middle class was created because of unions and we support them. However, while unions are strong, the majority of people in NYC do not belong to unions.   

But this is exactly what Council Member Espinal, a first term council member, did on Wednesday,
September 10th when he allowed the Teamsters and carriage trade to co-opt him and came out against a ban of the inhumane and unsafe carriage trade – something that we – the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages - have  been working on since 2006 as a grass roots, all volunteer organization. 

Espinal  says he has done a lot of research but his arguments are straight from the carriage drivers’ play book – almost the exact words and they are clearly either lies,  exaggerations or manipulations of the truth.    I do not know why he is doing this.  I think it is foolish for a first term council member  to play with fire on something he knows little about.  I suspect he made a deal with the Teamsters.  He is also wrong suggesting  that the only committee for such a bill is Consumer Affairs.  In the 1990s similar bills were in the Health Committee.  It was not until 2007 that it was put in Consumer Affairs. 

Anti labor?  don't think so:  Espinal says he will convince all of you who are undecided to join with him.  Quite presumptuous. 
Please read these articles below first and become educated.   Know the issue.  Also know that the Teamsters’ carriage driver local is not a real union shop. Approximately 150 drivers belong to the union and pay $60 a month dues. Drivers and owners are in the same local.   There is no collective bargaining; no medical or vacation benefits; no paid days off.   Based on this estimate, the Teamsters get about $108,000, which goes toward their already hefty salaries.  Please do not think these are real union jobs.  They are not.  This is all about bully politics.   Any real union member should be ashamed that this is what the Teamsters are fighting for while  risking any good relationship they might have with the Mayor.   

Mayor deBlasio & the Teamsters:  It is also curious that Mayor deBlasio is the first pro union mayor in 20 years and the Teamsters are trying to hurt him on this issue.  If they could get him to back off and flip flop, this could work against him in the future and he may not get reelected.  Is this what the Teamsters really want or have they even looked ahead and weighed the consequences of their actions.?  Are they willing to sacrifice their many members for a tiny group of people - many of whom are not even union members?  How quickly they forget that municipal workers went five years without a contract under Mayor Bloomberg and Mayor deBlasio is working through and settling the contracts.  

Mayor deBlasio has never wavered:  With all the pressure, we are grateful that Mayor deBlasio continues to remain firm on this issue.  He has always said he will find other employment for the drivers.  An excellent solution is one offered by Andres Carriage Tours, which was approved by legislation for Detroit.  It involves the same carriages  -- just not the horses.  We have sanctuaries waiting to help find homes for all the horses if the drivers agree.  Instead they are acting like spoiled children wanting their own way, something that all past administrations have given them.    Last year I produced a well documented report that revealed a turnover of 529 horses in 7 ½ years.  This is not something you will ever see in the Daily News.  The link is at the end of this letter.
Revenue:  Do you realize that no one really knows how much the carriage trade contributes to the

economy?  It is a cash only  business.  Inside sources have told us that a medallion can bring in about $130,000 per year, which is a little over $8,000,000 (68 medallions).  But this same source says that the amount reported is a fraction of that, which means that the City of NY is losing out on tax revenue.   The carriage drivers should be forced to produce their tax returns. 

The Daily News has taken control of this issue spewing outrageous, unchallenged lies about the carriage trade.  Why are they doing it?  Please do not think they care about the horses or drivers.  It is a metaphor for Mayor deBlasio’s progressive agenda, which they despise,  and a Mort Zuckerman payback for Christine Quinn’s primary loss and his  loss of access to City Hall.    We have not been able to get the truth out.  I implore you to read these documents below to learn the truth about this business and issue.  

A few months ago, the Daily News, supported by the carriage drivers, Teamsters, Working Families Party (the latter referred to the carriage trade as the third most popular tourist attraction in NYC - and they did this with a straight face) and various council members ran a cover saying "You're an Ass, Mr. Mayor."  simply because the Mayor could not be bullied by them.  

Support is there.  There is a lot of support for this ban.  Do not think otherwise.  Before the Daily News got involved with this crusade, every poll taken showed 75-80% of respondents in favor of a ban.  But after they polluted the atmosphere with lies about this issue for one year, it is not surprising that the Quinnipiac polls show that 60% of the respondents are opposed to a ban.   The truth is not getting out. 

this is what the stables are really about

Anyone considering whether to support a ban or not must be informed about the inherent dangers of the carriage horse trade and the nature of the horse.

Since the ASPCA gave up humane law enforcement in January 2014, most of the street laws are not enforced.  The drivers are getting away with a lot. 

Thank you for reading this letter.  Please learn about this issue.  If anyone is interested in seeing how horses are supposed to live WHILE they enjoy being real horses, I suggest you visit the sanctuaries at Equine Advocates or Catskill Animal Sanctuary about 2-2 1/2 hours from NYC.  Equine Advocates is the home of Bobby II Freedom, a former NYC carriage horse we rescued from the kill auction in 2010. 

Bobby II Freedom - the NY Times report on his rescue  

List of Accidents - outside of NYC.  (remember horses do not care where they are to spook)