An advocacy group is trying to push undecided councilmembers to the starting gate in the race to take horse-drawn carriages off New York City streets.
NYCLASS, an animal rights group, began canvassing the districts of councilmembers who remain on the fence regarding the issue, in effort to encourage the public to sign petitions and reach out to their representatives to ensure passage of a proposed City Council bill to remove the horses from their Central Park run.
“We believe horses should not be working in city traffic,” NYCLASS representative Joel Bhuiyan said. “This is 2014, maybe 100 years ago, 150 years ago, you could have horse carriages in the city, but now it’s just inhumane to have them working next to trucks, buses and cars.”
Mayor de Blasio created a lot of controversy when he vehemently came out against the use of horse-drawn carriages in New York City.
While there are many who support the mayor’s ideals, there are almost just as many who say removing the horses will make Central Park less special and, most importantly, be detrimental to the drivers who depend on the carriages as their main source of income.
Actor Liam Neeson publicly ridiculed de Blasio’s position while the Daily News printed cutouts to be mailed to City Hall, demanding the mayor reconsider the legislation.
But with NYCLASS, Bhuiyan said the group is not after drivers’ jobs.
“All around the country and even the world there have been outright bans of carriages,” he said. “We’ve started a new initiative in asking people to not only phase out horse carriages but also bringing in the electric cars instead so that drivers can maintain their way of life. We care about these drivers and their livelihoods.”
On Saturday, NYCLASS representatives stood in the entrance of Socrates Sculpture Park, in Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer’s (D-Sunnyside) district. The majority leader has not publicly spoken on the matter yet but Bhuiyan said he is feeling positive.
“We’ve gotten more than 500 postcards signed so far and we’re not only going into Jimmy Van Bramer’s district, we’re also going into all of the other districts where a councilmember might be undecided.”
Most recently, a horse in Central Park got loose when he shook off his bridle. A passing biker hopped on the carriage and managed to calm the horse down without injuring anyone, including the animal. A cab door was smashed in though.
“Drivers don’t have to be beating their horses in the stable for it to be inhumane,” Bhuiyan said. “Having them work in city traffic is not good for them and it’s not good for humans either.”
Bhuiyan said he and his fellow activists will canvas districts for as long as it takes and are expecting to make a difference.