December 1, 2014
By Marc Bussanich
New York, NY—That’s what some Teamsters said in the accompanying video at Central Park South the morning after news broke that the de Blasio administration is drafting legislation to be introduced by Councilmember Daniel Dromm to ban horse carriages from navigating New York City’s streets.
Capital New York reported on Sunday evening that the City Council will be introducing legislation in December to ban the industry. According to the story, the bill would eventually phase out the industry by May 2016 by not renewing horse carriage licenses set to expire at that time.
The battle over to preserve or abolish the industry enters a new phase as Councilman Dromm announced in a press release on Monday morning that he’ll be sponsoring the legislation in the City Council.
“Horses don’t belong on the city’s congested streets amid cars and pollution. There have been too many crashes and too many horse deaths and injuries to justify the continuation of this industry. The legislation, being introduced at the next Stated Meeting of the New York City Council, will provide a valuable alternative for the drivers while at the same time ensuring the humane treatment of the horses. I stand with NYCLASS, The Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA, PETA and many other animal rights groups in this struggle against animal cruelty,” said Dromm.
We asked Demos P. Demopoulos, secretary-treasurer for Teamsters Local 553, the local that represents about 300 horse carriage drivers, for his reaction and he said he was shocked when he first heard the news about the potential ban.
“I was shocked, and so were the guys in the industry. We had no knowledge that a bill was coming down. Of course we’ve all heard of the possibility for a long time now, but [there’s] been no interaction at all with the administration. We’ve reached out many times to discuss the matter with them, but it never happened,” said Demopoulos.
There’s some uncertainty about whether there’ll be enough votes in the City Council to pass the legislation. Obviously, the horse carriage drivers hope there isn’t. We asked Demopoulos whether he feels the local has enough time between now and May 2016 to convince councilmembers otherwise.
“I don’t want to put anybody on the spot, but I would anticipate that they would stand behind working families as the Working Families Party does and advocate for these people and vote to support the continuation of this industry,” he said.
Demopoulos said the union is open to other ideas to save the industry, such as restricting horse-drawn carriages to Central Park.