Sunday, October 30, 2016



 "If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth" --  a profound and disturbing quote attributed to Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Propaganda Minister in Nazi Germany,  but also to Vladimir Lenin, founder of the  Russian Communist party.

This is exactly what happened with the defeat of the campaign to ban the inhumane and archaic horse-drawn carriage trade in NYC,  something that any caring, civilized people would have done long ago.   It is unmanageable  and an ongoing embarrassment to the city.  

Those who wanted to defeat the horse-drawn carriage ban included the self-serving Teamsters and other unions, carriage owners and drivers, many politicians – and the media – mostly the NY Daily News – all with their own reasons – but getting behind the real truth had nothing to do with it.   
 NYC horse collapses - Sept. 2, 2016

Loss of Good Union Jobs:  The main lie was that the shuttering of this trade would cause a loss of “good union jobs.”  That claim was not only not questioned by many Council Members but was used to make their case to people who believe everything they read.   They wanted union support when they came up for reelection.  Truth be damned. 

Stable Land:  The second lie was that the real estate developers were lusting over the stable land so they could make lots of money putting up luxury apartment buildings. 

Both of these lies resonated with people – job loss and unfairness by the real estate industry – David and Goliath.  But to those of us who know the truth it just confirmed that too many people believe what they read and hear and do not exercise critical thinking.  Other lies did not quite catch on as well but served as the cake icing to support the big lies – the number of horses who have died while working in the trade; horses would go to slaughter; the age of the industry to make it appear iconic; exaggerated size of stalls; horse vacations;  industry regulated by several city agencies with pages and pages of regulations; highly exaggerated financial contribution to the economy; safety being a non-issue.  Start with one lie – and if it catches on and the chumps buy it, then the sky’s the limit. 

I have written about this many times in my blogs – challenging the media – especially the NY Daily News for perpetuating lie after lie to ensure that the carriage industry remains in NYC.   It has now been ten months since the failure of the ill-conceived bill that foolishly proposed building stables in Central Park but it seems that this phony issue is still rearing its ugly head. 

Back on the Scene:  Now re-enter head of the Transport Workers Union, John Samuelsen.  In an October 23, 2016 op-ed piece in the NY Daily News he gratuitously attacked Mayor deBlasio whose administration once again turned the other cheek and did not fight back.    “Transport union boss rips Mayor deBlasio for ignoring everyday New Yorkers, warns labor leaders to rethink supporting him in next election.” 

Samuelsen did a good deed last January when he came to the defense of the pedicab drivers who were being shafted by the City via the proposed legislation – but they never unionized so one wonders if this ploy was just to get attention.   He obviously has his own ax to grind with the mayor – and I say – have at it – but not on the backs of the horses please, promoting lies.  Does Mr. Samuelson have so little respect for his supporters that he will lie to make a point? 

This is from the Daily News article and I have highlighted the lies with my comments below challenging them. 

“Real estate interests, meanwhile, for years have been drooling over the West Side properties where the popular horse carriage drivers stable their beloved animals. Giving tourists rides through Central Park is a pretty good union job. It has allowed many men and women to put food on the table, and put their children through college.
What did de Blasio do? He repeatedly tried to prohibit carriage rides in the city and wipe out hundreds of jobs. That would have set the stage for real estate barons to finally buy the properties and put up more skyscrapers that 99% of New Yorkers can't even afford.
In seeking the ban, the mayor claimed he was concerned about the horses' health and welfare. Another crock. He never even bothered to actually visit the stables. And as the New York Daily News reported, independent experts said horses are "healthy, happy and well cared for."
As one veterinarian said in The News: "These horses are being treated with pride and compassion, often by their individual owners/drivers.  It never was about the horses. It was about Bill and his campaign donors and proxy attack dogs in the real-estate industry. The mayor clearly sided with the ultra-rich real estate industry (aka his campaign donors) over the trade union movement and all workers.”

Whoa:  This has been very successful propaganda.  Babes in the woods, de Blasio and his administration did not stand a chance.    De Blasio was never adequately prepared about the carriage horse issue and either would or could not challenge the lies coming from the unions, Council Members and the media.  He did not even know the language of the original bill, talking about the electric cars in a question and answer event in the Mid West.   He, like most Democratic politicians, are beholden to the unions.    

Why:  Why was the NY Daily News out to get him – obviously using this issue as a metaphor for something else.   Perhaps it was because they never wanted him to be Mayor.   

Unions, on the other hand,  are losing membership throughout the country.   By taking this issue on,  lying about the good union jobs – and winning – it was hoped to elevate their status. 

Construction Union Jobs:  The far west side is part of massive new construction to gentrify the area.  To even suggest that real estate developers are drooling over the paltry stable property is embarrassing.  These are relatively small plots, which could bring the owners at least $10 million for each one if they decided to sell, which is their choice and not a land grab as some has suggested.  

Hudson Yards is the biggest development project in the city since Rockefeller Center was built in the 1930s, translating into hundreds of union jobs.  New construction may well grow up around the stables, leaving the stable owners with devalued property.   The ultimate joke will be on them. 

The irony over this silly dishonest claim is that new construction brings UNION JOBS.  Mr. Samuelson and his Teamster friends are being disingenuous. Unions have benefited greatly by the growth of construction all over the city, but particularly Hudson Yards and the adjacent areas.  The construction jobs in Hudson Yards has been a windfall for the unions.  

Good Union Jobs for carriage drivers?   No way.  Of the approximately 244 carriage-driving licenses, only about 120 drivers belong to the Teamster local.  Without total participation, it is not a “union shop” and there are no benefits.  This means no medical, sick or vacation days – and certainly no 401ks to save for retirement.  So to even hint that this is a good union job compared to what the MTA workers have is insulting to all of us – not the least to loyal union members.   This ploy was to bring down Mayor de Blasio and he was not astute enough to fight back.  It also propped up the owners of the 68 medallions, most of whom pay little in city income taxes because of their extensive deductions in a cash only business. 

As for those “independent” experts who claim the horses live a great life – name them please with all of their affiliations.  We do know that the “study” that showed how calm city horses are was paid for by the carriage trade and only tested on a handful of horses.  
 NOT a good union job. 

 About unions:  I generally support unions – they helped create the middle class.  But this is not about the value of unions - it is about the ethics and morality of lying to get your way, which must be indefensible in a civilized, democratic society.   The truth is that unions are in deep trouble all over the United States.  But lying to get attention will not ultimately help. 

Yes, I have had the "audacity" to criticize the unions here - but please – no death threats.  It has happened before.  Vicious comments on the blog - anonymous or not - will be deleted and/or reported.  You will not get your 15 minutes of fame on my dime.

This is a link to the accident record we have kept.  It does not include the “accident’ that occurred on Labor Day weekend, pictured above,  when a driver forced his horse to make a turn and the horse collapsed. 


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Former Horse Carriage Owner Speaks out against Intro 573-B - the no-ban bill

Former Horse Carriage Owner Speaks out
against Intro 573-B -- the NYC Council bill that sells out the horses

To Whom It May Concern / NY City Council

As a horse owner and former carriage livery operator I have been very concerned about the living and working conditions faced by the horses used in the NYC street hack tourist carriage industry for several years now.

At first, I believed these horses were adequately cared for and given proper care, just as my own horses were. But after looking into how the tourist carriage industry operates in New York City, I realized that working and living conditions for these horses were unacceptable.

As a person who has ridden, shown, driven and bred horses for a span of more than 50 years, I can honestly say that I would not keep or work any of my horses under the conditions most of the carriage horse owners or drivers in NYC apparently believe are satisfactory.

I also do not support Mayor Bill deBlasio's proposed compromise as being in the best interests of these horses either.

Here are my reasons for believing his plan is NOT good for the horses and does not meet their needs. I also believe it is not in the best interest of the pedicab owners/drivers, and of the members of the general public who use Central Park.

The first and most important reason is that the plan does not provide for any turnout at liberty (unharnessed or unhaltered without a lead) in a large paddock or pasture. Horses are social animals and without access to an area where they can exercise or graze at the very least several times a week - preferably with other horses to whom they are accustomed--, they develop "vices" or bad habits such as chewing wood, cribbing, weaving in their stalls and can become hard to manage. These habits can cause illness and make them unsound for work.
Large draft horses and draft crosses need adequate stall space, especially if they do not have ANY access to turnout for months at a time. Currently many of these horses are housed in stalls that do not meet the minimum recommended square footage for horses of their size (a MINIMUM of a 12 ft. by 12 ft. stall) and the mayor's proposed new stable provides for only 10 ft. by 10 ft. stalls -- these are INADEQUATE for the size of most of the horses used by the carriage owners and driver in NYC.

The plan to keep the number of medallioned carriages at 68 while reducing the number of horses to only 75 means the horses will have to work MORE than they do now. It is my opinion that these horses are already working shifts that are too long and too often now. Really having horses stand or work on hard surfaces in city traffic for 9 hours a day, often 7 days a week is already possibly injurious to their health and minds, especially with all the pollutants in the air. It also probably isn't good for the drivers either.

The mayor's plan does not provide ANY protection from slaughter for these faithful animals once they become injured or too old to work. In this day and time, that is simply a crime and is inherently inhumane. Former NYC carriage horses have already been found in kill buyers' lots destined to slaughter. Without legal protection, I believe this will continue to happen.
The provision to remove the VISIBLE license numbers on the horses' hooves is also not a very good idea and will make it easier for dishonest owners and drivers to try to pass one horse off as another. This has already been the case. A driver was caught trying to pass an old horse with respiratory problems, who should not be working, off as a younger sound horse. I believe these horses should have BOTH a visible hoof brand and a microchip. But to be honest, many sales barns and dealers do not bother to check to see if a horse is micro chipped.

I also believe that if horse-drawn carriages are going to be allowed to continue to operate in NYC and other densely populated urban areas with heavy motorized traffic, the drivers need to be better trained and supervised. The mayor's proposed compromise does not address this issue at all. There are countless videos and photos on the Internet that show drivers blatantly ignoring regulations that are already on the books to make carriage driving safe. Drivers routinely leave their horses unattended and untethered curbside. Even the best trained horse can be startled or spooked by a sudden loud noise or unfamiliar sight. This had happened DOZENS of times in the past 10 years since I became aware of the situation in NYC. Sometimes people and horses have been seriously injured, and often these incidents have resulted in the death of the horses involved on the street or their euthansia back at the stables. Really, the sight of a dead horse in the street is not very conducive to tourism.
There are also other issues that make this proposed compromise suspect. For example, if I lived in NYC, I would not want public funds spent to build a stable for a very few -- 68 or so -- people to be able to pursue their own private for-profit businesses. I also do not think it is fair to give one set of business owners a monopoly at the expense of others in a similar service industry. I am referring to the pedicab owners and drivers being excluded from portions of Central Park while the carriage owners and drivers are granted access to these same areas, exclusively. But THESE are issues that would be more of a concern to NYC citizens and tax payers. 

I am mainly concerned about the welfare of the horses involved because the treatment these horses have received, and are continuing to receive at the hands of some of the carriage owners reflects badly on all of us who own and drive horses. I can honestly say that during the seven years that I operated a special events and wedding carriage livery, not a street hack business like the tourist carriages under discussion in NYC, I was negatively impacted by stories of horses running away and being injured or causing injury to drivers and passengers in your city. After the horse named Oreo spooked, bolted and became a runaway, the video was carried by many network affiliates including the one in Baton Rouge, near where I operated my business. I lost two wedding bookings as a result of the fear that video engendered in the public.

My business model was nothing like the street hacks in your town, but I was still affected. As a private carriage livery operator, my horses were booked for specific events and rarely traveled on public streets at all. They were usually at weddings and other functions held on private property, and they actually worked no longer than 3 hours at a time from unloading to reloading and going home.

I know that the NYC carriage owners and drivers like to claim that only they "know" about horses, and only they are qualified to speak to the issue of equine care. Just for reference, I have been riding horses since age five and I began driving in the show ring when I was in my twenties. My late husband and I bred and showed flat shod Tennessee Walking Horses for more than ten years. We produced several champion horses, including a horse that was exported to Germany and won several gaited classes at the Equitania, including a gaited championship there.

I operated a profitable special events livery from 2007 through 2015 when I ceased making my horses and "rolling stock" available for hire. I owned a total of six draft horses, all of whom were retired at my expense on my property. I still drive my remaining horses and ponies for personal pleasure on the streets of my small rural town and at selected historical reenactment events in my area.

In closing, I urge the council and anyone who has a modicum of concern for the welfare of NYC's carriage horses to reject this poorly planned compromise as not being in the best interests of the horses or the citizens of NYC who share the streets of Central Park with them and the carriages.


Mrs. H. B. Willis 
Elysian Fields Farm 

P.O. Box 272
Clinton, LA 7072