By Tom Momberg
The animal rights group New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets rolled out new tactics last week for its ad mailer campaign targeting City Council members who are undecided on a bill that would ban horse carriages in Manhattan by mid-2016. The NYCLASS campaign charged the drivers with openly expressing bigoted attitudes.
The mailers continued a January ad campaign depicting graphic images of injured horses, this time claiming that horse carriage drivers freely use homophobic, sexist and racist language around their customers and the general public, making reference to a video published by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals of a driver in a hate-provoked rant.
Several of Queens’ Council members were turned off by the tactics against the horse carriage industry. Many of the drivers live in the communities of Bayside and Sunnyside.
Among those in public opposition to the bill have been Council members Daneek Miller (I-St. Albans), Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) and Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest), each of whom joined a pro-horse carriage rally last winter.
“NYCLASS’ tactics are so misleading and offensive, their supporters are galloping away,” Lancman said in a statement. “Horse-drawn carriages and their drivers are a dignified, honorable part of the fabric of New York. NYCLASS could learn a thing or two from them.”
NYCLASS did not respond to request for comment.
Miller did not wish to comment on the ad fliers, but said the industry still has his support.
“As chair of the Committee on Civil Service and Labor, I’m particularly committed to the preservation of these jobs, and to the men and women that hold them,” he said.
Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Sunnyside) is one of the primary sponsors of the bill, who introduced it at Mayor Bill de Blasio’s behest after he ran on a campaign promise to ban horse carriages in the city during his mayoral election.
“I urge my colleagues in the City Council to vote on the merits of the legislation to end a cruel and inhumane industry rather than on the contents of one ad,” Dromm said in a statement. “The fact remains that horses do not belong on crowded Manhattan streets breathing in toxic car exhaust fumes and risking being hit by motor vehicles. Most New Yorkers I know agree that animals must not be treated so inhumanely.”
Wiley Norvell, an aide in de Blasio’s office, said, “We believe the legislation represents a humane and equitable solution that moves the horses off our streets, safeguards the animals, and protects the livelihoods of the men and women who provide carriage rides.”
City legislators who have been undecided on the issue include Councilmen Peter Koo (D-Flushing), Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton), each of whom received the most recent NYCLASS fliers.
An aide to Richards said the offensive language in the fliers had the councilman concerned, but that he would remain undecided until a formal City Council hearing on the legislation.
“I am still undecided, but these ads are a dirty tactic that wrongly target an entire industry for the apparent inappropriate behavior of a few,” Koo said in a statement.
A representative from Van Bramer’s office said the flurry of NYCLASS fliers would not affect his vote on the fate of the carriage industry and that he would continue to listen to his constituents to inform his decision this fall.
“I will continue to study the issue of horse carriages in New York City,” Van Bramer said in a statement. “NYCLASS can spend money on mailings in my district, but I take exception to the content of some of those mailers and can tell you they do not sway me in their favor.”
Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) told the TimesLedger Newspapers in February that he was calling for a compromise favoring tighter restrictions on the horse carriage industry without the need for an all out ban. He said de Blasio was pushing for all or nothing.
Vallone did not respond to a request for comment on the recent ad tactics, but one of his aides said the councilman would also remain undecided on the issue until a hearing this fall.
Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomb