New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets (NYCLASS), the animal rights group behind the proposed ban on carriage horses, is angering some New York City Council members with an extreme ad and mailing campaign.
Capital reports that NYCLASS, which contributed $1.3 million to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign and led the “Anyone But Quinn” attack against the early frontrunner Christine Quinn (who strongly opposed the idea of a carriage horse ban), has now spent $500,000 on new ads and fliers.
The fliers are described as “provocative.” One accuses carriage drivers of “using hate speech against anyone who shows concern for horses.”
“They make anti-gay, sexist and racist remarks freely,” the flier text reads.
“If this is how horse carriage drivers treat people, just imagine how they treat horses,” it concludes, above a photo of an injured horse lying on the city street.
The reverse side lists a number of offensive quotes, apparently from carriage drivers, though no context is given.
Two city council members have now spoken out against NYCLASS, voicing their disgust with the aggressive campaign.
Bronx councilman Ritchie Torres told Capital, “It is a deeply offensive flier.”
“Whatever your opinion on the horse carriage ban, it has nothing to do with homophobia or racism or sexism,” he said.
Torres, who is gay and Afro-Latino, added, “The notion that NYCLASS exists to eradicate racism is absurd on its face. I resent the treatment of the serious problem of racism as a political prop."
“I was undecided but now I’m more inclined to come out against the ban,” he said.
Councilwoman Deborah Rose of Staten Island shared her decision to oppose the ban with her constituents via her Facebook page last week.
A self-proclaimed “animal lover,” Rose wrote that, “After months of consideration and listening to constituents, I have decided that I will not support a ban on horse-drawn carriages. I appreciate the vocal conversation that this issue has generated, but the more I study this issue, the more clear it is to me that the carriage horses are well-treated, in most cases by carriage drivers who grew up with horses on farms.”
“I want to thank NYCLASS for all the tweets, Facebook messages, emails, paper mailers and constant phone calls,” she added with a twinge of sarcasm. “They certainly helped me make up my mind on this issue.”
The NYCLASS campaign will target the neighborhoods of 20 city council members who are as of yet undecided as to how they will vote when the carriage horse ban legislation comes before the council.
Currently, only eight council members have stated their support for the ban. The legislation would need 26 votes to pass.
Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to put an end to the carriage horse industry on his first day in office.
Final details of the bill are still being crafted, but what is known is that the horse and carriage industry would be abolished by May of 2016, as existing licenses held by the 300 drivers currently working (many of whom are Irish) would not be renewed.
To compensate for the loss of jobs, the bill proposes to allow unemployed drivers to apply for licenses to drive green taxis which operate outside of Manhattan, and would eliminate the licensing fees. Also included is an employment training program for those forced out of their jobs.
Supporters of the drivers – such as Liam Neeson – have long contended that the efforts to eliminate horses from Central Park are fueled by real estate interests rather than animal safety concerns.
Two of the stables that house the horses sit on prime property on the West Side of Manhattan, and much of the money behind the main activist group against the industry, NYCLASS, came from its founder, businessman Stephen Nislick, who has real estate holdings throughout the city.