February 1, 2016
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Pedicab drivers aren’t taking their pending eviction from much of Central Park without a fight this week – and the union helping to organize them says that the plan to settle the spat between the mayor and horse carriage drivers, at the expense of other workers, is a “fugazy deal” that “stinks to high heaven.”
“No credible person believes this is about animal welfare at this point,” TWU Local 100 President John Samuelsen said in a statement. “Obviously, there’s more than meets the eye at play. These vulnerable workers are being thrown under the bus in a way that is the opposite of progressive. It’s anti-worker, anti-immigrant, and these workers shouldn’t have their livelihoods ripped away from them just so the mayor can reward his campaign donors.”
A large meeting between pedicab drivers and TWU Local 100 was planned for Monday morning at the union’s Brooklyn headquarters.
The de Blasio administration recently announced a deal ending it’s ongoing efforts to stamp out New York City’s iconic horse carriage industry, which calls for establishing new stables inside Central Park, but would ban pedicab drivers south of 86th Street in the process.
Teamsters Local 553, the union representing embattled horse carriage drivers, is advocating the deal because, as the group’s secretary-treasurer Demos Demopoulos recently told the LaborPress Radio Show/Podcast, “Our goal always was to protect this industry. We’re all familiar with [the mayor's] statements that [he] was looking to do away with the industry on Day One of his administration.”
Pedicab drivers aren’t the only ones unhappy with the pact — owners of the city’s existing horse carriage stables say they are not about to give up their property, and animal rights activists who helped Mayor de Blasio win a tight race against Democratic rival Christine Quinn, say they will continue to press for a ban. Park advocates sensitive to increased commercialism inside Central Park, are also upset.
Samuelsen told LaborPress that TWU Local 100 supports the Teamsters, but blames Mayor de Blasio for creating an “artificial crisis.”
“Throwing the pedicab drivers out of the park is not a solution,” Samuelsen said. “They are the innocent victims of an artificial crisis.”
About 300 pedicab drivers operate in Central Park. So far, however, the administration is sticking to the plan to curb a lot of their activity.
“We believe the approach we’ve developed with the Speaker and other stakeholders is the right one that best balances all the demands on the park and surrounding neighborhoods,” spokesperson Wile Norvell said in an e-mail.
Pedicab operators and horse carriage drivers have a history of squabbling over fares around Central Park, but the unions representing their respective interests are interested in maintaining solidarity.
"Every worker deserves a union,” Demopoulos said.