June 8, 2015
By Neal Tepel
New York, NY – As legislation to ban horse-drawn carriages is considered in the New York City Council, opponents of the popular tourist attraction released another video attacking the industry. The deceptive video falsely accuses horse carriage drivers of violating the law and over-working horses. This short movie attempting to destroy the lives of hard working New Yorkers is clearly a sham.
The video “doesn't even show what the activists are claiming it does,” says Demos Demopoulos, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 553. “The Central Park carriage horses and drivers are under constant scrutiny from City regulators and violations are rare,” says Demopoulos. “Anyone who spends five minutes on the horse carriage line knows that this is a cleverly-edited work of fiction.”
The film was sent to journalists from a consultant for NYCLASS, an anti-carriage group. NYCLASS’ large expenditures during the 2013 mayoral campaign, and alleged threats against a mayoral candidate, are under investigation by the FBI. More recently, NYCLASS and the Mayor’s Office have come under fire for not disclosing that the firm hired to conduct an “independent” environmental impact study of the carriage industry has close ties to NYCLASS and its founder, Steve Nislick.
The link where the expose-style film was uploaded is registered to Michelle Ngo. Ngo has produced several similar videos for PETA, an organization that has spent large sums to advance a ban of Central Park’s horse-drawn carriages. In partnership with NYCLASS, PETA has produced several misleading “undercover” videos. PETA is also known for harassing and spry painting New Yorkers wearing mink and leather coats.
These filmmakers are also under fire for violating traffic laws in the making of the video. Central Park, where the movie producers captured much of the hidden camera video, is closed to automobiles on weekends and outside rush-hour. But a New York Post investigation of the private investigators involved found that they violated that very law as they repeatedly followed the horse-drawn carriages into the park.
The irony of violating traffic safety laws to catch others doing so is not lost on New Yorkers. “It's the height of hypocrisy that the video was filmed by cars violating the Central Park car ban, putting New Yorkers in danger,” said Demopoulos.
This is hardly the first time that horse carriage opponents have been caught pushing questionable videos with false information. In June of 2014, NYCLASS was caught misleading journalists and elected officials when a five-year-old video of a carriage driver was promoted as a new incident.
The Central Park carriage horses are protected by an extensive list of regulations, governing everything from veterinary care, to working hours and conditions, and even five weeks vacation. The regulations are strictly enforced by the NYPD, Department of Health, and Department of Consumer Affairs.
Whether the new video has any impact on the stalled City Council legislation remains to be seen. City-wide polls have consistently documented that city residents feel strongly that carriage drivers are a great asset to the Big Apple and its tourist industry. The unified support from New Yorkers leaves the hundreds of carriages drivers hoping that a misleading video will not be enough to take away their livelihoods.