In Spite of His Promises, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio Has Not Even Tried To Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages
In a live radio interview on August 19th, Mayor de Blasio delivered a major blow to NYC’s animal advocacy community by shifting the responsibility for the bill to ban horse-drawn carriages from himself to the advocacy groups and City Council: “What I’d say to every advocate: You already have my vote. Go get the votes in the City Council and solidify the support in the City Council so we can make this change.”
On the surface, his statement sounds fair enough, but it is extraordinarily duplicitous, as it ignores the reality of how legislation gets passed in the City Council. If the Mayor wants lawmakers to support a bill, especially one that doesn’t affect their own constituents, he has to ask them – or compel them – to do so. Lobbying by advocacy groups, which is important and has been done, cannot take the place of the Mayor exerting his leadership and doing the work behind the scenes to get the bill passed.
During his radio interview, the Mayor attempted to exonerate himself on the grounds that the bill lacks support in the City Council and among members of the public. What he didn’t say is that the reason for this lack of support is his own failure to lead. As Mayor, it is his job to generate that support, especially in light of the fact that taking carriages off of NYC streets was a signature component of his campaign platform.
After the Mayor made his statement, several Council Members (CMs) criticized him for shifting the responsibility for the bill to the City Council, noting that he has made no effort to generate support in the Council. Bronx CM Ritchie Torres told Politico, “The Mayor is the one who sets the agenda, and he is the one who made it a priority for the city. The notion of diverting attention to the City Council strikes me as strange. To the extent that the City Council is advancing the bill, it’s doing so on behalf of the mayor — he said it was going to be a priority from day one, so the horse carriage fight is inseparable from the mayor himself.”
Brooklyn CM Antonio Reynoso echoed Torres’ remarks in an interview with Capital New York: “The horse carriage issue is definitely the mayor’s priority, and if the mayor wants to push it in the City Council, he can do that . . . I don’t think that the responsibility of trying to push this — one of his greatest priorities — is on the Council.”
The Mayor has failed not only to lobby Council Members, but also to build public support; to speak out after carriage accidents were reported; and to address the misinformation reported by the pro-carriage press, the unions and the industry itself. In fact, the Mayor has done virtually nothing to generate support for the bill. His deafening silence and inaction in the face of growing opposition over the past 18 months resulted in a massive erosion of support in both the City Council and the general public – support that advocates spent years building.
Furthermore, the Mayor’s consistent refusal to address the issue in the media, apart from merely reiterating his support for a ban, enabled the opposition to control the story and to portray the local animal advocacy community as a group of misguided, uninformed extremists.
Perhaps even more duplicitous than the Mayor’s decision to renounce his responsibility for this bill is his insistence that NYCLASS, the local animal advocacy group leading the effort, spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a TV commercial (see below) to generate public support for his bill. Why would the Mayor encourage the community to waste such a staggering sum of money, which could have been used to help other animals, in support of a bill that he already knew he had no intention of backing? Was he hoping that NYCLASS would have no money left to hold him accountable after he betrayed the community (and the horses)?
Bill de Blasio won the Mayoral election in 2013 in large part because the animal protection community brought down his chief (anti-animal) rival, Christine Quinn, and donated time and money to his campaign. The community embraced de Blasio because he said that in his administration, animal rights would move from the margins to the mainstream and, of course, because he vowed to take the horses out of harm’s way.
At some point during the past year, however, he made a calculation that walking away from his promise was more politically expedient than working to fulfill it, in spite of the fact that this decision will reflect poorly on him when, during re-election season, voters on both sides of the issue will remember him saying, “Watch me do it!”
The Mayor’s actions – and inaction – have consequences beyond the potential failure of the bill; the waste of resources; the diminished support among members of the public; and the marginization of the local animal rights community. The horses lives are as bad as ever because the city is not enforcing the laws that govern the industry.
In 2014, the ASPCA, which opposes NYC’s carriage trade but refuses to exert its power and influence to ban it, stopped doing humane law enforcement. That responsibility was assigned to the NYPD, which is unfamiliar with the law and entirely uninterested in enforcing it, thereby leaving the horses at greater risk than ever of being double-shifted, worked in temperature extremes and forced to pull overloaded carriages. When the drivers have free reign, as they do now, the horses suffer.
Please contact the following two people in the Mayor’s office, and demand that the Mayor fulfills his campaign promise: Jon Paul Lupo (Director, Legislative Affairs; 212-788-2971, firstname.lastname@example.org) and Marco Carrion (Commissioner, Community Affairs Unit; 212-788-3137, Mcarrion@cityhall.nyc.gov)
If you live in or near NYC, please join the candlelight vigil on Friday night (August 28th)
Please share this article to educate others about the status of the campaign to ban horse-drawn carriages in NYC, and stay tuned for next steps to compel the Mayor to do the work required to fulfill his unmistakable campaign promise.
If you know anyone who is unsure of why horse-drawn carriages must be banned from NYC, please encourage them to watch BLINDERS The Movie.