December 10, 2014
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – While activists pushing to destroy the Central Park horse carriage industry continue to draw a dubious distinction between those animals and others nags also working around the city – there are growing fears that a proposed ban, if passed in the city council, might nevertheless end up extending beyond iconic buggy drivers in Manhattan.
Walker Blankinship, president of the Kensington Stables in Brooklyn, told LaborPress this week that so-called animal rights activists have already shown up at riding classes held in Prospect Park to warn student equestrians there that they are “all going to be banned soon.”
And Eddie Abraham, program director at Lynn’s Riding School in Forrest Hills, Queens, said, “We’re all in the same industry – it would be foolish not to be concerned.”
On Monday, December 8, New York City labor leaders gathered en masse on the steps of City Hall in strong support of the horse and carriage drivers of Teamsters Local 553.
Stephen Malone, spokesperson for the Horse and Carriage Association of New York, warned that Councilman Daniel Dromm’s horse carriage ban is only the beginning of a much wider crackdown on horses throughout the city – and beyond.
“Who’s next?” an angry Malone said. “We stand here today, not just for the City of New York’s horses – the [NYPD] mounted units [and] the Parks Department horses – but for carriage and riding industries across the country. They will be next if you allow this to happen. They [horse carriage industry foes] will not stop here in New York.”
PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – reserves a particular vehemence for the Central Park horse carriage industry, alleging it is “cruel” and that “drivers take advantage of every opportunity they have to skirt the rules and to abuse the horses.”
The group, which along with NYCLASS, is helping to spearhead the Central Park horse carriage ban, does, however, make an exception to its strident view that horses do not belong on crowded city streets when it comes to the NYPD.
“Police horses have much better accommodations to go back to [at the end of the day] than the carriage horses,” PETA spokesperson Ashley Byrne told LaborPress in September. “They have a rink that they can turn out in every night, and they just get better care all together.”
Of course, the proposed ban now before the city council, does not give the Central Park horse carriage industry an opportunity to even try and match the NYPD’s allegedly higher standards of equine care.
GallopNYC, the non-profit group that uses horseback riding to help autistic children and other kids with special needs, as well as wounded veterans and those suffering from PTSD, has already reached out to both the mayor and members of the city council because the organization worries about how far the proposed horse carriage ban might ultimately extend.
“We are concerned about some of the rhetoric that suggests that horses don’t belong in the city, and that horses shouldn’t be used for work,” GallopNYC Executive Director Alicia Kershaw told LaborPress. “If we couldn’t have horses in the city, it would be a serious problem for our riders.”
Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley [D-30th District], meanwhile, argued on Monday that the pitched battle now being fought over the Central Park horse carriage industry actually has nothing to do with protecting horses.
“Let’s not be fooled,” the Queens councilwoman said. “Banning horse and carriage drivers from Central Park, is not an animal rights issue. It’s about political promises and money. The real estate around the park, and near where the stables are, is important to the people who make and move money in the city. And they do not want the horse and carriage industry.”
In any event, Malone said it would be a “cold day in hell” before anyone touches his horses, and called on fence-sitting council members to “get on the right side of this campaign.”
“The time is now to get on board with 1.3 million union workers that support our industry,” Malone said.