September 2, 2014
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Mayor Bill de Blasio insists that horses do not belong on the streets of Midtown Manhattan – but the horse carriage drivers who make their living there say that the head honcho is just being mule-headed, and spending way too much time listening to people who don’t respect manual labor.
“We’re working class people,” Central Park horse carriage driver Christina Hansen told LaborPress this week. “We’re working class families out here doing our jobs with our horses. And you’d think the mayor would side with us, because the people that are funding this anti-carriage effort are the ‘one-percent.’ They are fabulously wealthy. They’ve spent a lot of their personal fortunes on this, and they’re also the people that Bill de Blasio said he was not going to be on the side of.”
According to Hansen, classism, as well as a “radical ideology” that maintains horses should never be domesticated, is helping to fuel the mayor’s support for a horse carriage ban.
“A lot of people who feel that this is not right have issues with manual labor,” Hansen said. “They have issues with people working hard because they don’t do it. They sit behind a computer, or they don’t work at all. They look down on people who perform manual labor for a living. They look down on the guy that’s loading the garbage truck. So, the idea that a horse is doing physical labor is repugnant to them.”
Contrary to the mayor’s belief that horses pulling carriages is inhumane, horse carriage drivers like Hansen insist that their animals are bred for the task, and actually relaxed and happy on the city streets.
“The more people try to tell me it’s wrong, the more I realize the problem is with them,” Hansen said. “The horse sees this at his natural landscape.”
Supporters of the horse carriage industry are also upset with de Blasio because they feel the mayor is willfully ignoring their side of the argument.
“He could be listening to us, the people who actually take care of the horses and do this job,” Hansen said. “But he refuses to meet with us, and he refuses to go to the stables himself. He’s only listening to a small group of animal rights extremists who just so happen to have spent a whole lot of money helping to get him elected.”
In June, 66 percent of those responding to a Quinnipiac University Poll opposed banning New York’s horse carriage industry. On September 3, horse-drawn carriages will help usher in Fashion Week in New York with a special star-studded spectacle along Central Park South.
While an outright ban has yet to materialize, the administration steadfastly insists that it is considering “a range of options” that ultimately involves moving horses off the city streets, while also somehow safeguarding the animals, and protecting the livelihoods of carriage drivers.
But Central Park horse carriage drivers have already rejected a scheme to replace their animals with electric-powered novelty cars, and they say that the administration isn’t listening to their ideas about improving the industry.
On September 21, horse carriage drivers belonging to Teamsters Local 553, will join thousands of other union members from SEIU 1199, 32BJ, DC37, New York State Nurses Association and Transportation Workers Union Local 100, in the People’s Climate March – a mass demonstration that could be the largest mobilization against climate change in history.
“We in the carriage business are interested in joining the climate march because a lot of the issues that we deal with, when you write them out larger, have to do with how we ended up in this mess in the first place,” Hansen said. “People think we’re going to solve the problem with electric cars. But how are you going to power the electric cars – coal fire and fossil fuel plants? There is this big disconnect between people and nature, and it manifests itself when they say horses don’t belong in cities. Horses belong wherever people are.”