July 9, 2016
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – A Manhattan lawyer fed up with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s earlier efforts to put New York City horse carriage drivers out of work by outlawing the industry, is hoping an Article 78 petition filed this week at NY County Supreme Court will compel Hizzoner to release studies and reports pertaining to his attempted ban.
Craig Sheldon, 63, filed a Freedom of Information Law request (FOIL) last July in an effort to obtain the Environmental Assessment Study an outfit called Langan Environmental & Engineering Services conducted at the administration’s behest.
“It’s just revolting,” Sheldon told LaborPress on Friday. “We don’t live in a country where the government tells men and women who are doing an honest decent job what type of work they’re supposed to do. What if one day the mayor decides we don’t need more corporate lawyers and he’s gonna relegate me to driving an Uber car? It’s just absurd.”
Sheldon says his FOIL requests have been consistently stonewalled for a whole year — and that when some information was finally provided this past April, “they didn’t give a single document that Langan prepared.”
“There is no basis under FOIL to withhold factual information,” Sheldon said.
According to Sheldon, Langan conducted at least 15 studies on behalf of the city including transportation and vehicular analyses, as well as an environmental assessment of new horse carriage stables proposed for 86th Street.
“None of that is an agency struggling to define the policy — they’re facts that the consultant gives the agency. But they won’t produce a single one of those documents,” Sheldon said.
Mayor de Blasio made banning the horse carriage industry one of his top priorities upon taking office, and the issue has plagued his administration ever since.
A hearing on Sheldon’s Article 78 petition is slated for August 4, but the likelihood of him getting satisfaction before then appears doubtful.
Also on Friday, a Law Department spokesperson told LaborPress in an email, that the administration will defend the FOIL determination “which we believe is appropriate and lawful.”
Sheldon, originally from Long Beach New York and who never actually took a horse carriage ride until after he began filing FIOL requests pertaining to Mayor de Blasio attempted ban, says he doesn’t even consider himself a “crazy fan of the horse carriages.”
“Before [Mayor de Blasio] got elected, other than walking by on 59th Street, I never gave them a second thought,” Sheldon said.
On the contrary, Sheldon says he’s become a “first-time rebel at the age of 63,” because of the underlying labor issues associated with efforts to ban New York City’s horse carriage industry.
“It’s the labor issue that got me involved in to begin with,” Sheldon says. “It just offended me at the beginning that this progressive mayor was making a social value judgement that good old fashioned hard work wasn’t socially valuable. Whatever one thinks about the industry or anything else, the mayor should just comply with [my FOIL request]. It’s not right.”