Monday, August 22, 2011

new blog

The NY Times’ standards are clearly not what they used to be. Of course, they did mess up in 2004 when they admitted that its flawed reporting during the build- up of the war in Iraq helped to foster the mistaken belief that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

So – they are anything but “perfect.”

A recent editorial called Some Carriages Should Not Be Horseless - 8/4/11, seemed more likely to have come from one of the tabloids than the “paper of record”… an editorial that suggested to me that someone in power may have called in a favor to have this written …too much of a coincidence that it was published soon after three recent carriage horse accidents. It was an editorial that was filled with assumptions, biases and incorrect, arrogant pronouncements.

It starts out by suggesting that the horses are not allowed on the street when it is 90 degrees or under 18 degrees.

Maybe, maybe not.

The ASPCA is the only agency mandated by law to determine the ambient temperature for the horses and they have a special thermometer to do so. If the ASPCA officers are not at the hack line to take the reading, any of the other sources – whether the large CNN thermometer in Columbus Circle,, weather underground or 1010 WINS could read 95 and the drivers do not have to go back to the stable. The officer must officially suspend the operation for the day.

However, there is no provision in the law for how the suspension is to be lifted – so drivers have been known to check the radio for a reading and come out when they feel like it and when the ASPCA officers are not there.

Messed up? You bet.

But the Times naively thinks in fantasy land terms where laws are not only clear and direct, but obeyed and adequate.

In a rebuttal article written by Doris Lin of on August 8, All Carriages Should be Horseless, Lin describes a situation a few years back when it took the ASPCA two hours to get all the drivers to go back to their stables during a snow storm. Why? Lin retorts “They care more about making a buck than they do about the horses.” I agree.

The horses work a nine-hour day, seven days a week. No days off. And the so called five week “vacation” is not what it is cracked up to be. The provision is unenforceable.

The ASPCA is not going to travel to Pennsylvania to see if the horse is grazing in a field or pulling a plow. Besides, for 47 weeks a year, the horses have no access to pasture other than to see grass over their blinders as they pull carriages through Central Park.

How cruel.

The NYS Horse Health Assurance Program NYSHHAP, which is part of the NYS government, recommends that horses work no more than four hours a day. This is only one of the reasons why the carriage trade does not qualify for voluntary certification. NYSHHAP is a certification program to promote equine health, care and welfare through the use of certain “best management practices” or standards.

The editorial goes on to insult State Senator Tony Avella and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal by suggesting that they introduced a bill to ban the horse-drawn carriage business in response to the three recent accidents, essentially jumping on a bandwagon like ambulance chasers.

Absolutely not true.

Senator Avella first introduced this bill in the City Council in 2007 and the present state version in June 2011. Rosenthal has been a big supporter of animal issues for many years and was happy to sign on to this bill.

It appears that the Editorial Board used the carriage industry as its source of information. It seems that they are not subject to being fact checked and can write whatever they want.

The writer goes on to say that the horse involved in a recent accident near the Plaza was not injured – ignoring the many pictures of the horse with blood streaming down his chest - pictures that made their way to several media outlets including Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell.

One of the most ridiculous statements was that people actually come to NYC to take a carriage ride suggesting that they might not visit if it was shut down. People may take the ride as an afterthought if they are in the neighborhood – but the real magic comes from Broadway shows, top rate restaurants, wonderful museums and concert halls, the fabulous shopping experience.

Carriage horses? I don’t think so.

As for the last comment about the horses being treated well and being closely monitored by the city -- really? The fact that the law requires stalls to be a minimum of 60 square feet, which is less than one half what they should be; the fact that the horse gets no pasture time for 47 weeks out of the year; the fact that drivers often negotiate heavy traffic, using their horses as battering rams and taking risks by using cell phones, standing up, reading magazines, turning around to take pictures while driving … how does this equate to horses being treated well?

There are many people who believe that a horse working between the shafts of his carriage for nine hours straight a day – without the ability to scratch an itch is not the way they were intended to live.

It is unethical and inhumane.

We started this campaign in 2006. Our website has a wealth of information. It is hard to fight this battle when the NY Times with all its power and prestige is allowed to write such an untruthful editorial and will not even publish a rebuttal.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Are More Taxpayer Subsidies on the Way? 

The carriage drivers are petitioning the City of NY for more favors. Will they get them?

A recent letter * published in the NY Times on August 12th, stated that as members of the City’s Rental Horse Advisory Board, the carriage drivers are petitioning for:
-- hitching posts
-- dedicated carriage lanes
-- microchips to identify the carriage horses

They are also “offering input into driver licensing by the Department of Consumer Affairs.”

Interesting material here.

Notice they say nothing about providing shade for their horses while on the hack line or doing something about the very hot asphalt on which the horses must stand for hours on end. Both of these suggestions were included on P. 11 of the NYC Comptroller Audit of the industry in 2007.

No – what they are suggesting will make it easier for the drivers, not the horses.

The Rental Horse Advisory Board operates secretively behind closed doors and does not share their information publicly – even though a recent opinion from the Committee on Open Government said that they were subject to the Freedom of Information Law. In their arrogance, they do not care. Most of the members of this “democratic” board, which is part of the Department of Health, are part of or favor the carriage industry.

In the parlance of the vernacular, it is sham board …. A joke.    

The items on which they have petitioned are proof that the industry is unsafe and that these slow moving, dangerous and flimsy carriages should not be clogging up the streets of New York City - one of the most traffic congested cities in the country.

The answer is to shut them down and not to offer more Taxpayer subsidies.

Hitching Posts: The drivers like to park their carriage and leave their horse unattended while they are waiting for customers. They might be talking with their friends or otherwise not paying attention. The horse is ignored. The accident that occurred on July 16th is a good example of what happens with this carelessness. A carriage horse on Central Park South was spooked when the carriage in front backed up and came too close. The horse panicked and bolted, galloping up Central Park South for two blocks, with an empty carriage tied to his back. He crashed into a parked car.

A similar thing happened in September 2007, when a 12-year-old mare named Smoothie, also tied to an empty carriage, spooked and bolted. However, she ran the opposite way into a tree and died on the spot. Another unattended horse ran across Central Park South and crashed into a car. He lived.

If both drivers had been attentive, they would have seen their horse becoming agitated and could have prevented the horse from spooking.

Many, many people want this industry to be shut down. Why should taxpayers have to pay for hitching posts for a private industry ruining an otherwise nice street? The drivers should pay attention to what they are doing or get out of the business.
And where exactly would these posts be … on Central Park South? … in front of the deli or Starbucks where the drivers have been seeing leaving their carriage unattended while they go into the store ... In Times Square?

Dedicated Carriage Lanes:  Wow, this is a presumptuous one – even more so because there are only 68 carriages operating at any given time.

Ninth Avenue is the street most used when the carriages return to their stables on the far west side of Manhattan. It is packed with traffic – four lanes plus parking on the east side of the street. Ninth Avenue is the corridor that leads to the Lincoln Tunnel and is crowded most any time of the day. Buses do not even have their own lane. Ambulances from Roosevelt Hospital are a frequent part of the traffic congestion. It has been the site of several accidents. In 2006, a horse named Spotty, returning to his stable was spooked. He bolted and galloped into traffic throwing his driver who was hospitalized in a coma. Spotty crashed into a station wagon at 9th Avenue and 50th Street, wrapping around the top with his head on the ground. He was so badly injured that he was euthanized on the spot.

Tenth Avenue is the route most followed for the drivers to return to their stables.  It is just as congested as Ninth Avenue.   

Special lanes will not have any impact on the nature of the horse.   

By nature, horses are prey animals and will spook at the slightest provocation. At upwards of 2,000 pounds, they become unwitting weapons and can kill themselves or anyone who is in the way. There have been many accidents around the world where this has happened. In 2007, a five-year-old girl fell from a horse in a parade and was trampled and killed by spooked carriage horses. Last year, in an Iowan parade, a woman fell out of the carriage after the horse spooked. She was killed.

Within Central Park: The carriages share these roads with bikers, roller bladders and joggers.

A special lane – I don’t think so. Why should people enjoying the park give up part of the road for carriages? Carriage wheels have damaged the asphalt and the repair expenses are picked up by the City. Why is this?

Central Park South or 59th Street is adjacent to the park and is another street used often. The carriages are already clogging up the north side by the park. Double lanes go in both direction and this is the site of many illegal u-turns.

Microchips to identify the carriage horses: this is my “favorite” and the most sinister and transparent. What does that mean in the NY Times letter “to identify horses.” By whom? The auctions certainly do not have wands to find a missing carriage horse.

The only reason to microchip the horses is to make it more difficult for the public to identity them when there is a problem – or to find them at the auctions. There have been many situations when people have noticed problems with horses and have been able to report them to the authorities.

Micro chipping does not make sense. This is not the same as for cats and dogs who should be micro chipped because they could get lost and end up at the kill shelter. Wanding these animals could reunite them with their guardians.

But carriage horses do not run away. The 4-digit number engraved on their hoof needs to remain. It is the only way to hold this industry to some degree of accountability. This is how we have found carriage horses in auctions. This is how witnesses have identified horses with problems. On June 25, 2010, we found Bobby, a NYC carriage horse at a kill auction. Read his story here. We were able to trace him back to West Side Livery Stable because of his 4-digit hoof number.

Input into driver licensing by the Dept of Consumer Affairs – another joke

-- how about some laws that prohibit the drivers to refrain while driving from using their cell phones, turning around to take pictures, reading magazines and newspapers, standing up while driving, making u-turns on Central Park South, using their horse as a battering ram to negotiate traffic – and eating. That would go a long way into making the streets safer. And what about all those drivers who do not have a NYS Driver license?

The carriage trade is a small industry in NYC consisting of no more than 300 people, many of whom are part time. The Teamsters Union that represents them does so as a lobby group because they do not offer a real union shop to the drivers. While dues are collected, it is only to pay for the Teamsters’ time – it is not for medical or vacation benefits.

Real union members should be very upset about this.

For years, the City of New York has catered to this very small but politically connected industry. Shamrock Stable was renting a city owned site on W. 45th St. at a subsidized rate of $5,000 per month – real estate that on the open market went for $60,000. According to a New York Times article, they had been subsidized by the City for over 40 years. $55,000 per year times X number of years. Yes – that is a lot of money that could have gone toward education, senior centers or keeping the hospitals open.

Do other businesses fare so well with these kinds of deals? No they don’t. If they are not able to afford a location, they have to find one they can. Simple economics.

Why should this industry garner favors and be catered to over all the other small businesses – restaurants, clothing boutiques, food stores, coffee shops, restaurants – all those who have had to close their doors because they could not afford the rent.

So time will tell whether the City will once again cater to this small but privileged industry and give them what they want at taxpayer expense … for a cash only business.

* This is the direct link to the NY Times letter page if the embedded link does not work. 


photos show traffic on 9th Avenue and Columbus Circle; a deadly accident at 9th Avenue and 50th St. on 1/2/2006; Smoothie's death; Bobby's hoof number; driver using cell phone while driving