NYCLASS, the prominent animal rights group seeking to ban horse-drawn carriages from city streets, has added a veteran Democratic operative to steer its new direct mail blitz.
Henry Sheinkopf, who has worked as a consultant for former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and a host of city and state level candidates, will lead a new mail and field operation targeting the districts of City Council members undecided about the ban.
NYCLASS, short for New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets, will target the Brooklyn districts of Council members Mathieu Eugene and Laurie Cumbo, along with the Manhattan district of Councilman Daniel Garodnick–in addition to several others that have yet to be revealed. The operation will cost in the “six figures” and last into the fall, according to a NYCLASS source. (Mr. Garodnick, Ms. Cumbo and Mr. Eugene did not immediately return requests for comment.)
Mr. Sheinkopf, a consultant and lobbyist, has a long record of victories, though several of his City Council candidates failed to win office last year. He replaces the Advance Group, the firm that headed NYCLASS’ successful independent expenditure against Christine Quinn’s 2013 mayoral campaign but was dropped after a series of negative newspaper reports related to that effort surfaced.
The mailer is relatively graphic: the front side depicts what appears to be an injured or dead horse with the words, in large black letters, “Carriage horses have been injured and killed on NYC streets. Help us save their lives.” On the back, the mailer declares the horse carriage industry a “public menace” and urges the reader to call their local council member.
The mail campaign is just the latest salvo in what has been an aggressive campaign to ban horse-drawn carriages, which animal rights groups revile because they believe horses live inhumane lives on city streets. NYCLASS announced months ago they would begin lobbying individual council members to vote for a ban. Legislation, supported by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, has yet to be introduced, though some council observers believe a bill will eventually be presented to lawmakers.
“We appreciate the mayor’s consistent support for ending the unsafe and inhumane carriage horse industry,” Allie Feldman, the executive director of NYCLASS, told the Observer.
A ban is not assured, however, even with the mayor’s support. Unions representing the carriage drivers oppose the ban and are striking back against council members that have sided with NYCLASS. The labor-backed Working Families Party penned a letter to City Council members yesterday urging them not to ban the carriages, which the party argues are a source of stable income for several hundred people. Some council members have balked at supporting a ban until they know the carriage jobs will be replaced with equally well-paying gigs.
“The developers backing NYCLASS have spent millions attacking the working men and women of the horse carriage industry, but it hasn’t changed the fact that 66 percent New Yorkers support the carriages,” said a spokesman for the Teamsters union representing the carriage drivers. “That is what City Council members care about.”
There is a tinge of irony in the WFP’s opposition to the horse-carriage ban. Jon Kest, a founder of the party and an ally of Mr. de Blasio’s, also helped launch NYCLASS in 2008. Mr. Kest, along with his daughter, a NYCLASS organizer, passed away two years ago.
Updated with comment from the Teamsters union.