By Juan Soto
With the bill to ban horse-carriage drivers expected for a vote sometime next summer in the City Council, the pressure is mounting on Queens lawmakers to support legislation pushed directly from the mayor’s office.
NYCLASS, the animal rights group behind the bill, is mailing daily graphic postcards to the lawmakers until the legislation is passed.
“We expect the bill to be passed and the horse-carriage drivers will be a thing of the past,” said Allie Feldman, executive director of NYCLASS. “This is long overdo.”
Feldman told Times Ledger Newspapers that the group has about 7,000 cards signed by New Yorkers “who want to see an end to this inhumane industry.”
But some council members said they will oppose the bill until there is a clear alternative in place for the industry workers.
“I am not going to get rid of an industry that brings tourism dollars and jobs to the city,” said Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens). “If we base a decision on public opinion, I get six letters of support for the industry per each postcard I received.”
Northeast Queens is home to many of the carriage drivers in the industry.
Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) said his office has received about 12 postcards in the past week.
“NYCLASS has waged a long and aggressive campaign to get this bill passed,” Koo said. “This is just simply another tool at their disposal in order to build support for the legislation.”
He is still undecided.
In recent weeks, the animal-rights group launched several campaigns seeking to amass support for the bill, including TV commercials and an ad blitz organized in collaboration with the People for the Ethical Treatments of Animals in which the groups targeted Council members by installing giant posters in the bus stops near their district offices. The ads featured a horse that died in a Manhattan street in 2011.
“We also have volunteers picketing in the five boroughs” near councilmen offices, Feldman said. “We will be out there until the bill is passed. We will not stop organizing.”
The graphic postcards being sent read, “Carriage horses deserve better than a life of nose-to-tailpipe misery on congested Midtown streets… I respectfully urge you to support the legislation that will retire the horses to loving adoption homes.”
Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) got about 15 cards in the mail last week. She said she opposes the bill.
Sources close to the councilwoman said she visited the stables where the horses are lodged “and believes they are treated well, which is her most important concern.”
They said as long as the animals are treated well, “she will continue” to oppose the bill.
Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside), who represents Bayside, Bay Terrace and other northeastern Queens neighborhoods, declined to comment.
His colleague, I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans), chairman of the Committee on Civil Service and Labor, also received postcards in the mail. He said it is NYCLASS’s right “to stand for their cause.”
But he added that he prioritizes the “jobs of the 300 men and women in this industry. The sentiment of our community in southeast Queens is favorable to this industry, which has supported workers in our city for so long.”
Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 260–4564.