Monday, November 3, 2014


Are the Teamsters out to bring down Mayor deBlasio?

by Elizabeth Forel   
President, The Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages
Illegal:  Horse-drawn carriage in Climate March

The Teamsters, as Local 553, have been representing the carriage drivers in NYC since 2008 when they saw an opportunity arise after a horse named Smoothie was killed in a spooking accident.  The drivers are not organized into a union shop, which means that there is no mandate to join; no collective bargaining, vacation, medical benefits or retirement benefits that one would expect to find in a real union.   Both the owners and workers are in the same local and most of the drivers have not joined.  The $60 dues are essentially a lobbying fee.  Nevertheless, the Teamsters have no problem calling them “good union jobs.”

One wonders why the Teamsters cannot help the drivers get authentic “good union jobs” and continue to represent them in another business.  The death knell has already sounded in this industry and whether it is through legislation per Mayor deBlasio or eventually through the Hudson Yards Redevelopment project, the end will happen.

Unions helped build the middle class, improving wages, making the workweek shorter, workplace safer and addressing the health and retirement needs of workers.   I understand it and support it.  Real union members should be outraged at this “fake union”  because it is a sham – designed to bully the City Council and the Mayor into submission with implied threats of working against them next election.
typical congestion near Central Park

The only way for the unions or the Daily News (which has waged a crusade against a ban and deBlasio)  to get support for this industry is to lie – and lie they do.    They never let facts get in the way.  Because these blatant lies have not been challenged by a media that is only too willing to follow in lock step, the truth is not getting out.

Have You Been Brainwashed by the Media?

Beware – the Media is Managing the Carriage Horse Issue.

These are some of their recurring lies —  “Teamster Speak” —   with our response:

The horse carriages contribute $19 million to the tourism industry.

The horse carriages contribute $19 million to the tourism industry.

The source of the $19 million number is Steve Nislick from NYClass.   When projecting the income expected from a new electric car tourism industry, he estimated the income from the carriage industry for comparison.  It was an unfortunate overestimated guess and these numbers could not be substantiated.  This is a cash only industry made up of 68 separate businesses, whose tax returns are private.  Nevertheless, that did not prevent Crain’s NY Business, Daily News and many others in the media from citing this puffed up number.  The bigger the number, the more viable and important the carriage industry sounds.
The Teamster flyer also claims that the drivers make between $40,000 and $100,000 per year.  But these numbers do not jibe with the $19,000,000 figure also on the flyer.
A confidential source from the carriage trade has told us the income is more like $10,000,000 annually but only about half of that gets reported to the IRS since it is a cash only business.     Using a figure of approximately 4% for NYC tax, this would mean that the industry is contributing only about $200,000 annually to the tax coffers of NYC not the $760,000 that their supporters claim.
The way this can be settled once and for all is to have all drivers – owners and employees both – submit their tax returns for public scrutiny.    But until then, they need to stop lying about how viable their industry is.

The Teamsters continue to say that the industry is regulated by four city agencies and the ASPCA.

hardly romantic

The ASPCA withdrew from enforcing animal cruelty laws and oversight of the carriage trade in January 2014.  The four city agencies are the Departments of Health and Mental Hygiene, Consumer Affairs, Transportation, and the NYPD, which ostensibly took over from the ASPCA.  We continuously complain about the lack of law enforcement, particularly on the streets.  The NYPD looks the other way as the drivers make illegal u-turns, leave their horses unattended and untethered or overload their carriages.  There is no one to stop them.  As state Senator Tony Avella said in the Times Ledger in January 2014   “The city has been doing an awful job monitoring this industry,” he said. “It’s disgraceful.”  Yes, Senator and unfortunately nothing has changed under our new mayor.  With the departure of the ASPCA, it has gotten worse.

There have been only three equine deaths due to collisions with motorized vehicles and no human fatalities.

This is quintessential “teamster speak” manipulating the facts so it is only about collisions when other causes of death are equally as important.  In fact there have been many reported deaths of horses in this industry.  In January 2006 when we started this campaign, Spotty had just died from a spooking accident. Later in September, Juliet, an old mare, was diagnosed with Exertional Rhabdomyolisis or “Tying up Syndrome” and died in her stall.  In 2007, Smoothie was killed in another spooking accident.  In 2011, Charlie collapsed and died on the street on his way to the park.   This does not account for the many horses who died behind closed doors in the stables from colic or another cause.  The only way to know this is through the Freedom of Information Law.

Since we started analyzing the known incidents, at least 13 horses have died publicly in 30 years.  This does not include horses who died in the stables.
While it is true there have been no human deaths in NYC, there have been human deaths elsewhere that involve carriage horses and it is only a matter of time before it happens here.  

The Teamsters’ position is irresponsible because they deny the nervous nature of these powerful horses who spook easily and become unwitting weapons when frightened, bolting into traffic causing havoc. It’s a Safety Issue addresses these concerns.
reminding Mayor deBlasio about his promise to ban the carriage trade

The Quinnipiac poll has shown that more than 60% of New Yorkers oppose banning horse-drawn carriages.

This poll was taken months after an unchallenged onslaught of media propaganda led by the NY Daily News, which continues to this day.  In this kind of environment where the truth is not welcome, it is not surprising that people who have been subjected to media brainwashing would react this way.

Prior to Mayor deBlasio’s election, every poll taken on this subject resulted in between 75 and 80% of respondents in favor of a ban.

There are 300 people whose jobs will be affected.  Teamster George  Miranda said. “By destroying the horse-carriage industry, the city would be killing good jobs and leaving 400 hardworking taxpayers and their families out in the cold.”

The number of people in the industry has grown like Pinocchio’s nose.  However, a June 2014 document from the Department of Consumer Affairs shows 228 horse carriage license holders.  Not all of them live or work in NYC.  Some are not even in the industry.  One had been deported to Mexico; another lives in Sicily, one owns a restaurant in Brooklyn, and yet another has a carriage business in Cape May – but they continue to hold on to their licenses.  They are relatively inexpensive – another NYC perk — only $35 for two years compared to $30 for one year for pedicabs.  Owners pay $100 for two years compared to $110 for one year for pedicabs.

We Feel Your Pain
Mayor deBlasio is the first pro union mayor in 20 years.  He inherited a mess from Mayor Bloomberg including many municipal union contracts that had not been renewed – some for five years –  representing 300,000 people.  Yet his administration is moving along and almost finished negotiating and resolving these contracts.

So why are the Teamsters beating up on Mayor deBlasio publicly, siding with the Daily News, which prints covers saying that the mayor is an ass.  Do municipal union members realize what the leadership is doing?

If the Teamsters succeed in getting Mayor deBlasio to go back on his word, it will hurt him. He will become known as a flip flopper and worse.  When he runs for reelection in 2017, this could be used against him.  He will be known as someone who does not keep his word and is essentially a puppet for the Teamsters.  Although NYC is considered to be a Democratic city our last two mayors were Republicans.  Is this what the Teamsters want?  Are they really that dense – all for a couple of hundred people that they could retrain in real union jobs?  Or is it something else?   Do they have someone in mind that they want to put up against deBlasio – someone who will be their puppet?

Follow the money …

Bottom line – do we want this city ruled by the Teamsters – the updated version of Tammany Hall – or a strong mayor who answers to his own conscience?


originally posted in the blog 
"Animal Rights:  Rethinking our Relationship with Other Species" 10/15/14

Saturday, October 4, 2014


In 2010, a local law was passed that required NYC carriage horse owners to provide a “5-week vacation for their horses.” The language of this new regulation can be found under Regulations in the Administrative Code – Rental Horse and Protection Law.

 § 17–330 Regulations – g.2 Carriage horses shall receive no less than five weeks of vacation or furlough every twelve months at a horse stable facility which allows daily access to paddock or pasture turnout. Proof of such vacation or furlough shall be provided upon request to the department and/or the ASPCA. 

The media went nuts with the concept of a horse getting a "five-week vacation" when many 

people do not get as much time -- as if this were the greatest thing for these horses.  No one questioned if it was appropriate.    No one!
Instead, the media's reporting conjured up images of horses lolling about in swimming pools sunning themselves. Crain’s NY, a long time supporter of the carriage trade, said: “The horses get a minimum of five weeks' vacation every year. Many are shipped off to fields in Pennsylvania for leisure, often for three months at a time."   This was typical for the media, but it was all hype.  
Carriage horses enjoying their "5-week vacation"
 Nevertheless, the  public and the media were only too happy to accept it as gospel. It was promoted by former Mayor Bloomberg, former Council Speaker Christine Quinn and former Council Member James Gennaro – all supporters of the carriage trade. 

This was deception of the highest order.  

Vacations are a human concept. People need them – not horses. Horses need daily turnout to pasture where they can graze and socialize with other horses. As herd animals, they like to engage in mutual grooming to relieve their stress – something they do not get to do in NYC.
How many of the horses enjoy real turnout 
There has been much written on the benefits of turnout for horses. Virtually all equine practitioners without a financial conflict of interest will come down on the side of the horse. The only people who claim horses do not need turnout are those who blindly defend the carriage trade, which simply does not have the land to do this. These are the same people who defend horses in the Climate March parade or parking a carriage horse over a steaming manhole cover. For 47 weeks out of the year, the horses get nothing – deprived of free exercise and the opportunity to be a horse. They work 9 hours a day, 7 days a week, coming back to a stall that is half the size it should be. 

Turnout - NYC style

But the reality of these “vacations” is even worse.

The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene seriously failed the horses with this legislation because nowhere did they ask for a list of farms that would participate in this program; nor did they require inspections of these farms. This omission begs the questions of where the horses actually go and what are they are doing once they get there.   It is all on the honor system. 

In October 2011, former ASPCA equine veterinarian, Pamela Corey was quoted in the New York Post.  "Dr. Corey, the director of equine veterinary services of the ASPCA’s humane law-enforcement department, said  

“We have observed some horses returning to New York City after furloughs on a farm in worse condition than when they left.”
is this what NYC carriage horse really do on "vacation?"

This statement was never investigated and was apparently ignored. 

While some of the drivers do own farms and hopefully their horses do get to relax, most do not. It has been rumored that many of the horses are sent to Amish farmers where they are worked for this period and not fed properly in exchange for satisfying the “vacation” requirement. This would account for Corey’s observation. The Amish would never tolerate seeing a horse just hanging around in the pasture doing nothing. The farmer would want to put him or her to work. This is no “vacation.”

This is just one of the many truths about the carriage trade that has been kept from the public because of media bias. Let’s get over believing that the carriage drivers “love” their horses.

They are commodities who exist only to make them money. 


Friday, September 26, 2014

Icons of Misery: Take a Good Look Around the Hack Line

Look down the next time you visit the hack line. There's more misery than you may know.

It's difficult not to recognize the horses' suffering. Exploited for greed and entertainment, the NYC carriage horse is an icon of misery. These dispirited horses travel up to 4 miles a day in heavy traffic, suffer concussive injuries and lameness from pounding the pavement, and don't get enough water.

New York City carriage horses also must share their feed with starving pigeons. This contaminates the feed and puts horses at risk for illness.

It's not an anomaly, it's the norm. The carriage drivers don't discourage it. In fact, they often throw feed on the filthy ground.

Picture it: New York City carriage horses stand around
in excessive heat and cold waiting for fares. The horses are watered inadequately and eat feed that is tainted with pigeon droppings.

Miserable, right? It's bad for the horses and it endangers the lives of the pigeons, who frequently fall victim to the wheels of the carriage.

This happened during our September demo & outreach event. The poor hungry birds are there one minute, gone the next. As always, one of our activists took the pigeon's body into the park, out of respect.
A ban critic recently said that the horses are happy and the pigeons are, too.  I recommend that everyone wake up and take a good look around the hack line--and don't forget to look down.

The ban will make New York City a better place.

Side note: Pigeons are wonderful creatures. An August 2014 Epoch Times cover story ("New York Too Busy to Care? Center Rescues City's Injured Birds") warned against bird bigotry and gave us a history lesson on the heroic birds. The reporter wrapped it up by saying, "By the time I had done an elementary Google search, I was ready to get down on the ground and salute them."

Monday, September 22, 2014


Editor's Note:  this is revised as of 9/27/14 based on new information concerning the Department of Transportation.  See highlighted area below. 

No place for a horse … 

Teamsters and carriage drivers put horse in harm's way by using him in the Climate March ... and it was illegal.

The first ever People’s Climate March was held in NYC on Sunday September 21st.    It was wall to wall people – estimates of  350,000 – some were as high as 400,000.  Lots of noise – bands, drummers, rolling crowd whoop – when that happened, it was so loud, I had to cover my ears.  I got there at 10:30 and it was not until 1:00 pm that we began to move – by baby steps.  It was exciting and exhilarating - a great time for people. 

But never for horses. 

At 3:25 into this video from the March organizers, a moment of silence is held followed by sounding the “climate alarm,” which translated into people shouting as loud as they could, banging drums, using noise makers.  This happened many times  during the march.   I call this a “rolling crowd whoop” because it started at the front of the march and made its way back.  During the march, there was a mix of chants, bands, drums, parade noise – sometimes so loud it would rattle your ear drums.    

It was no place to bring a horse. 

this is an example of the constant noise level of the march - video taken on 42nd St. 

It was no place to bring a horse.

The People’s Climate March organizers said there would be no horses in the march  -- for obvious reasons.

But that did not stop the carriage drivers.    There they were with a horse-drawn carriage in the middle of the crowded march.  The horse did not look relaxed.   The horse did not have a choice.  Talk about narcissistic, selfish and greedy.    And cruel.  Very, very cruel. 
Carriage horse pimped out by drivers; Although wearing blinders, his eyes look terrified

And Illegal! 

On Sundays, the horse-drawn carriages are allowed to work only in Central Park until 7pm, after which they can go into certain areas of the city.
Drivers must apply to the Department of Transportation for a variance if they would like to work their horse carriage outside of the existing regulations.  They did not. This was confirmed by the Manhattan Borough Commissioner.  She told me that no request was made and if it had been, they would have denied it because of the danger of a 2,000 pound horse in the march.   
§   19-175   Variance  for  special  events.  a.  Notwithstanding  the  provisions of section 20-381.1 of the code, the owner or operator  of  a  horse  drawn cab may apply for a variance from the provisions of section  20-381.1 for the limited purpose of carrying out a contract to provide a  horse  drawn “cab” for the “filming” of a “movie,” “television show” or “commercial; or for a wedding, parade, or other special event as shall be  defined  by  the commissioner by rule. The commissioner shall grant such  variance when he or she determines that the issuance  of  such  variance  would  not have an adverse effect on vehicular or pedestrian congestion,  commencement of theatrical productions or public safety.   
b. A variance application shall be in such form as prescribed  by  the  commissioner  and  shall  be submitted to the commissioner no fewer than  three business days prior to  the  date  of  the  event  for  which  the  variance is requested.
c.  The  commissioner  may  require  the  payment  of  an  application  processing fee in an amount to be established by rule.
d. The commissioner shall issue a document  specifying  the  variance.  Whenever  a  horse drawn cab is being operated in accordance with a duly  issued variance, such variance shall be carried by the  driver  of  such  horse  drawn  cab  and  shall be produced upon the demand of any police,  traffic, parks  or  other  enforcement  officer  authorized  to  enforce  section 20-381.1 of the code.
e.  Use  of  a variance by any person other than the person to whom it  was issued, or for any purpose other than the purpose for which  it  was  issued,  shall subject the person using such variance to a civil penalty  of not less than five hundred dollars.

 This is a very serious offense but I can guarantee that no one will be fined because of the fear of Teamster retaliation.   The carriage drivers put everyone at risk -- the horse, them and the many march participants.  Since our campaign began in 2006, we have documented many spooking accidents in which  people have been trampled by spooked and bolting horses and died from their injuries.  

 Horses are very sensitive creatures and their nature should be respected.  They have acute hearing and don’t like loud noises. The danger of putting a horse in this kind of noisy parade environment is that he could spook and bolt, hurting himself and others.  But even if he did not spook, it was cruel to subject him to such a stressful environment to make a point about jobs.

Many of these drivers do not deserve to be the custodians of such precious animals - animals they consider property - like a car or television.   The horses are clearly a means to an end – to bring in income -  and when they do not make the grade anymore, most are laundered through the Amish farmers on their way to auction and then slaughter.  The law does not require records for horses sold outside NYC as most are.   

Because they have no shame and are insensitive to being hypocrites,  the drivers carried signs that read “ Teamsters – climate justice” and “Teamsters – green jobs.”

These are the very same Teamsters that  support the Keystone XL Pipeline.  

The Keystone XL pipeline has been called the pipeline to environmental disaster.   Does anyone see the hypocrisy here?  Teamsters marching in an environmental issues parade.  This is how the march was unfortunately co-opted by special interest groups that have no interest in environmental justice but just want the photo op. 


Tuesday, September 16, 2014


We remember Smoothie...
12-year old carriage horse  who died on the street seven years ago
September 16, 2014

One of the most tragic incidents in recent history in the NYC carriage trade occurred in the late afternoon of September 14, 2007 on the hack line bordering Central Park.  A 12-year old mare named Smoothie, hooked to a carriage, was waiting for a fare.  In other words -- she was "parked."  Her driver was obviously not paying attention to her – probably off talking to his buddies.

It is illegal to leave your horse unattended and untethered, which Smoothie undoubtedly was.  This is nothing new, we see it often.  The street laws are generally not enforced.  They were not then and they are not now.  The driver should have been near Smoothie holding her by a lead line.  If he had done the right thing, he might have prevented Smoothie’s death.  

Horses can spook very unexpectedly and easily – but they often give you a clue - a little advance warning  that they are having an anxiety attack.      Smoothie spooked at something   perhaps a loud noise -  and tore down the street, hitting a tree.  She died on the spot. Poor girl, she deserved much better. 

A second horse – also unattended – was unnerved  by Smoothie, broke free and ran into traffic, crashing into a car.  The passengers were not injured but one of the women said that when she saw the horse coming at them, she was very frightened and thought it was over. 

Smoothie was owned by Cornelius Byrne who was arrested just weeks  later and charged with bribery.  He received a slap on the wrist but eventually lost his license – apparently only for a short time since he is still in the business.  

This is a very upsetting photo but we need to bear witness to these kinds of tragedies so it makes
our argument that much stronger.  I saw this particular photo recently for the first time and I was very moved and saddened.  Other photos published at the time showed Smoothie dead on the ground.  But this is Smoothie with her head up, dying, and no one is comforting or petting her in her agony.  I cannot imagine loving an animal as the carriage industry claims to do and then to ignore the most basic expression of compassion.  Look at the body language of the men surrounding her – hands on the hips, looking at her with disdain – probably thinking about the financial loss.  

This is a sampling of some letters published in the NY Post at the time.  

Although it happened seven years ago, this is the type of accident that could happen tomorrow.  It is a horse’s nature to spook.  At 1,500 to 2,000 pounds, when they bolt, they become unwitting weapons and can kill themselves or innocent passersby.  They do not belong in the congestion of NYC.  Please read It's a Safety Issue. 

Council Members who are are opposed to a ban are choosing a small group of people over the welfare of the public at large.