A Staten Island councilwoman said today that relentless lobbying from NYCLASS drove her to do the opposite of what they wanted–vote for a ban on horse-drawn carriages in New York City.
Councilwoman Deborah Rose, a Democrat, ripped the influential animal rights group for jamming her office’s phone lines and constantly sending mailers, Facebook messages and tweets about the ban, telling friends and followers on Facebook that she had decided to oppose a ban, despite being an “animal lover.”
“After months of consideration and listening to constituents, I have decided that I will not support a ban on horse-drawn carriages,” Ms. Rose wrote. “I appreciate the vocal conversation that this issue has generated, but the more I study this issue, the more clear it is to me that the carriage horses are well-treated, in most cases by carriage drivers who grew up with horses on farms.”
Adding that it “would be wrong to deprive the drivers of their beloved horses and livelihood, and to deprive New York City of the quality jobs and the character that these horse-drawn carriages contribute,” she aimed her fire at NYCLASS. “I appreciate feedback from my constituents on the North Shore of Staten Island, but repeated phone calls from all corners of the country is not helpful and makes it difficult for my staff to serve the everyday needs of people in my district.”
“I want to thank NYCLASS for all the tweets, Facebook messages, emails, paper mailers and constant phone calls,” Ms. Rose continued. “They certainly helped me make up my mind on this issue.”
Ms. Rose is not alone in strongly implying that NYCLASS’ approach is backfiring. Councilman Ritchie Torres, a Bronx Democrat, said he may decide to oppose a carriage ban after seeing NYCLASS’ fliers. Other council members have quietly complained about calls from outside their districts clogging phone lines.
Ms. Rose’s decision to oppose the ban is another blow to NYCLASS and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who vowed to remove horse carriages from city streets on his first day in office. A year and a half later, Mr. de Blasio and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito appear no closer to passing a bill, despite the support of a vocal minority of council members and animal rights activists.
NYCLASS, which stands for New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets, played a key role in the 2013 mayoral race. The well-heeled group, furious at ex-Council Speaker Christine Quinn for not outlawing a practice they contend is abusive to horses, authorized an independent expenditure against her, helping to sink her mayoral fortunes and indirectly aiding Mr. de Blasio. Earlier this year, NYCLASS was hit with campaign finance violations for illegally coordinating with two City Council candidates in the 2013 cycle.
The overwhelmingly Democratic City Council is reluctant to buck organized labor, which united against the ban. The Teamsters union, representing the roughly 300 drivers who would lose their horse-carriage jobs if the bill went through, has aggressively countered NYCLASS.
NYCLASS did not immediately return a request for comment.