Monday, April 7, 2014

Last of the Urban Horsemen

Cornelius “Neil” Byrne leans against the stall of a butterscotch horse named Cowboy and gazes out the second-story window of Central Park Carriages on far West 37th Street. Just a few blocks to the south, a crowd of construction cranes stabs the sky above Hudson Yards. They swing slowly back and forth like giant knitting needles stitching together the new mega-development from scratch.

“I keep looking out at those cranes,” Byrne says. “You don’t have to be a real estate expert to see what’s going on here. So much is going to follow those cranes. Unprecedented growth, they say. I know why Bloomberg called this neighborhood the new Gold Coast. That’s change out there. And it’s change that’s eliminating me.”

If Mayor de Blasio’s plan to ban carriage horses goes through, Byrne and the handful of other stable owners in the city will be forced to close, their century-old buildings demolished, and their horses--about 200 of them--scattered to places no one’s exactly sure about. Behind the ban are the pleas of animal rights activists, who see the urban housing and driving of carriage horses as cruelty. But alongside the outcry, complicating the situation, there’s something more—big real estate money and the unstoppable juggernaut of hyper-gentrification.

Roped into the Hudson Yards scheme due to their proximity to the Jacob Javits Center, properties in this area are being grabbed by the city’s most powerful players. The Chetrit Group, the same developer that took over the Chelsea Hotel, spent $26.5 million on the old buildings next to Central Park Carriages.

Numerous reports, from Michael Gross' initial blog post in 2009, to the New York Times, have revealed that a major force behind the ban is de Blasio campaign supporter and real-estate magnate Steve Nislick, who founded the powerful anti-carriage group NYCLASS. With wealth gained from a chain of parking garages, he is lobbying hard to replace the horses with electric cars--he denies that he wants the stable properties.

I walked through three of the west side stables and saw animals that were fed, cleaned, watered, and shod, with cushioned stalls big enough for turning around and lying down. Open windows on all sides of the stables let in fresh air, and the smell is that bracing, healthy aroma of manure and hay, like a brisk day on the farm. Inside, you feel like you’re in another time and place. It’s quiet here, with no traffic noise, just the soft sound of horses moving about the straw.

This is a native environment for Neil Byrne. Born in the rough heart of Hell’s Kitchen, the son of a Hansom cab driver, Byrne bought the building that houses Central Park Carriages in 1979. Today he owns a fleet of 17 horses and carriages, including his father’s 1902 Hansom, painted Brewster green and filled with memories of its days rolling through the city behind a mare named Sunshine Shannon. Hidden in the cab’s seat cushions, Bryne discovered a cache of artifacts, including a ragged souvenir photo of a long-ago dinner party at the famous Leon and Eddie’s, the faces of the tourists washed away by time.

Byrne holds these fragile ghosts salvaged from his father’s Hansom and says, with a rueful laugh, “This is all my father left me. This cab and a lot of bills.” He remembers a childhood spent in poverty, but without self-pity. “Look, nobody started on the top of the mountain here. We’re all guys who struggled for what we’ve got. That’s why we want to hold on to it. This is torture what they’re doing to us. There’s a lot of sleepless nights. It’s tough. Guys keep asking, ‘What’ll I do if I can’t do this?’ And they don’t come up with an answer. Me? I don’t know what I’ll do. I couldn’t even work at McDonald’s.”

One block north, at West Side Livery on West 38th Street, stable manager Antonino “Tony” Salerno clicks his tongue at a black beauty named Spartacus and the horse plants an oaty kiss on the man’s cheek. Salerno is happy here and the horses appear to be happy with him. They lean out of their open wooden stalls to nuzzle him, and each other, as he walks by.

“I don’t understand,” he says. “We don’t have cruelty here. This type of horse built New York City, working together with the man, building the bridges, the whole city. Now? The horse has an easy job. I can pull the carriage myself! They say they’re gonna rescue the horse? That’s like coming into your house and stealing your kids, saying, ‘We’re rescuing them.’ These horses are my family. They’re gonna take my kids?”

Salerno grew up with horses in his home village in Sicily, where his grandfather drove a carriage. In New York he tried life as a cabinetmaker, but “the mind is in the horse,” so he stopped cabinetmaking and went to work at the livery.

“This stable is like my house,” he says, putting a hand to his heart. “I spent 37 years in this place. If Mr. de Blasio takes my house, what I’m gonna do? I don’t want to drive an electric car. Who wants an electric car? Some tourist is gonna get out of a cab to ride an electric car? I want to stay with the horse. The horse is alive. I know the horse. I take care of him, and he takes care of me. I spend more time with my horse than with my wife.”

There are 36 horses living here, along with one calico cat who dispenses with the mice. Real-estate developers keep badgering the owner, Mrs. Spina, to sell, but she refuses. Salerno says she’s keeping the building in memory of her late husband—and, perhaps, in memory of its long history. On the topmost floor, across a shadowy hay loft filled with golden bales, there’s a room filled with antique harnesses, horse shoes, and carriage lamps, all covered in dust and cobwebs, artifacts from the stable’s century in business, harking back to the days when the streets of New York were filled with horses. To the developers who want this property, and to the activists who want to rid the city of carriage horses, that history belongs in the dust heap of the past.

“They’re all a bunch of liars,” Salerno says, picking up a heavy U-shaped shoe, that old symbol of luck. “Just because they want to build a big building and make lots of money? Physically and mentally, they already started damaging me. When you work and you dream, and they take it away from you, you feel like your whole life was a waste. I feel damaged because I don’t know what’s gonna be my future. My grandchildren were gonna take over, but now? I spent my life with the horse, now what I’m gonna do? I don’t have a future.”

Up on West 52nd Street, far from the Gold Coast of Hudson Yards, the Clinton Park Stables stands already surrounded by encroaching luxury development. As the day begins, the carriage fleet breaks out, rolling like slow-motion chariot racers into the traffic along Eleventh Avenue and branching across side streets to make the 0.9-mile trot to the park. They go past gleaming condos and high-end rentals, including yet another Avalon development, while down the street, the famed Roseland Ballroom readies for its final show, followed by demolition and a new luxury tower.

Stable owner Conor McHugh recalls when the neighborhood was “the wild west,” when the park across the way was filled with crack addicts and the streets were deserted. McHugh supports progress, but says, “We want to be a part of it. We don’t want to be run out of town. We were here when nobody was here.” McHugh got into the business of carriage driving in 1986, soon after his arrival from a small village in County Leitrim, Ireland. The county is still with him, in his green Irish-knit sweater, frayed at the elbows, and in his soft brogue.

“The job of carriage driver,” he says, “is often a starting point for immigrants. Like me. I came from a rural place, and working with horses was something I knew how to do.” The horses helped him and his fellow Irishmen get their bearings in the strange, new city. “When we first came here, we were like wild animals. We knew nothing of the culture, of living in cities. But driving the carriage, it connected you in ways you didn’t realize at the time. It was familiar. Like home.”

With 78 horses and 39 carriages, Clinton Park Stables is the largest carriage stable in town. Originally built to house horses in 1860, it was later used as a cardboard box warehouse, and then turned back into a livery by McHugh. While it harbors remnants of its deep history—like rusted and unused nineteenth-century tie rings from the time when stalls were much smaller--this is a modern facility in many ways.

Each stall has its own water fountain, a bowl with a special spout that the horse can control by pressing with its nose whenever it wants a fresh drink. Ceiling fans are threaded with misting hoses for hot days. And many of the stalls here are larger than regulation requires.

“We feel like the good guys in all this,” says McHugh, “but that’s not how we’re portrayed. Unfortunately, the way to defeat your enemy is to demonize him.”

Stephen Malone and Christina Hansen, drivers and spokespersons for the Horse and Carriage Association, get in on the conversation.

“It’s class warfare,” says Malone, frustration in his voice. “If we were on Polo ponies out in the Hamptons, we’d be great people.”

“But we’re not cocktail party people,” adds Hansen.

Back on West 37th, in the shadow of the Hudson Yards cranes, Neil Byrne stands on the sidewalk, looking up at his building, remembering better days.

“It used to be we were a very welcomed part of New York,” he says. “As a driver, you were a celebrity. Now you’re a goat.” He attributes this change to Steve Nislick and the powerful efforts of NYCLASS. In a 2010 speech to a group of moneyed horse people in Wellington, Florida, a town that the Wall Street Journal has called “Home to billionaires with an equestrian bent” (including Georgina Bloomberg), Nislick referred to the carriage men and women of New York City as “totally random guys” and “bad actors.” It’s a comment that sticks in the craw of every carriage person.

Nislick called us random people,” says Byrne. “You know what random people means? It means a guy you can just push around, not a tough guy who’s gonna fight back, not a guy with political connections. A random guy you just push out of the way. I felt very insulted to be called random. I’m not random.”

Secure in the good treatment he gives to his animals, Byrne says, “I hope on Judgment Day that my judges are my last three horses, smoking big cigars and deciding which way I go. Heaven or Hell. I’m not worried about where they’ll send me.”

He points to the empty buildings next door, wrapped in scaffolding as they wait for the Chetrit Group to demolish them. Byrne figures that Chetrit wants his and Tony Salerno’s horses out of there, so he can acquire both stables and enlarge whatever he plans to build on the site. He also believes that Chetrit’s silent partner in the deal is the King of Morocco, but he can’t be sure. The idea is not so farfetched—Chetrit bought the Sony building last year for over a billion dollars with backing from sovereign Middle Eastern wealth. In the air around Hudson Yards there’s enough global finance to choke a horse. And then some.

Ironically, the cornerstone of the Hudson Yards development is the sky-high Coach tower, home of the luxury brand with a horse and carriage logo. By the time the tower rises, that logo may be the only reminder that this world ever existed.

Byrne turns and gestures toward a dusty path below the nearby overpass, to Amtrak’s Empire Line railroad cut where it runs through a large exposed outcrop of Manhattan schist. He says that’s where a pedestrian walkway will be one day, with all the air rights transferred to neighboring sites for high-rise development, just like the city did with the High Line.

Change is coming in as fast as a freight train, barreling down the tracks for the Number 7 extension.

“When that train comes,” says Byrne, “this neighborhood’s going to be in full bloom. All these people will be coming right through here. And that’s why they want my property. We’re in the way. I don’t want to leave New York. This is my New York, too."

"If things were right, if there was no eminent domain and big money and all that, I’d be in the strongest position. I could relocate. But no. They gotta screw you. Who’s running New York? That’s what I want to know. Is de Blasio running New York, or is it Nislick?

In January 2014, Steve Nislick responded to claims that he is interested in obtaining the real estate on which the stables stand. He stated, "No one at NYCLASS, including me, has any interest in these properties." Read his full statement here.


Anonymous said...

Animal rights activists and regular folks who love animals--and all of whom have nothing to do with real estate in Manhattan--have been protesting the horse drawn carriage industry for decades. It's cruel how we allow these people to work these horses in the extreme heat of summer so we can amuse ourselves with rides through the park. These poor animals are slaves to our selfish desires.

Sandi Bachom said...

Neil is talking the real truth, here's a video I filmed of Neil telling the whole story. It's the story hundreds of people have told me.

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

I feel so passionate about this cause. I live in Little Rock, AR and everyday, several times a day many times, I pass by the pastures where the magnificent Belgian draft horses, the carriage horses, of Little Rock, AR are kept. I just have to wonder WHY the stables do not have the protection of being preserved forever to HISTORIC PRESERVATION status. They certainly ARE part of the history of NYC. Of course, I'm sure the Mayor's office might be involved in some surreptitious, underhanded prevention of the granting of such status, but perhaps you might have some friends in high places and could get this done. Some things are such an important part of our country's history that they must be preserved and I think this certainly fits the stables! Just a thought!

Anonymous said...

You just lost a loyal follower. This issue is not about real estate; that's a cheap excuse. The obvious tragedy here is the horses being forced to live their lives in a city, surrounded by exhaust fumes and constantly bombarded by cars and buses. These poor animals do not belong in the New York of today, which anybody with a compassionate bone in their body could realize.

Brendan said...

Why would you write all this without talking to the animal welfare (not "animal rights") groups that have opposed the carriage horse industry for many years? I mean the ASPCA and Humane Society, not NYCLASS. I'm sure they would have been happy to talk. Do you believe the real estate industry is "behind" those groups' opposition as well? If so, on what evidence?

If you're going to play journalist, you actually have to report your stories. This is embarrassing.

Marcia Curran said...

Thanks so much for your writing.
I have visited with horses, driver/owners, I have been to the Clinton Park Stables. The horses are just fine. They're healthy and beautifully cared for. They know their jobs well and take their work seriously. The drivers and owners are taking a lot of abuse here and it's really not fair. I stand in full support of them.

Anonymous said...

Horses have lived in NYC for centuries. Dogs were not bred to live in cities yet there are millions in Manhattan alone. I believe these animals are cared for properly. I have never seen a horse "suffer" during the summer pulling a wagon through a mostly shaded Central Park. By supporting the removal of these horses and the people and the stables in which these animals now live we hasten the end to diversity and remove the final road blocks yet more housing for the rich and super-rich. Animal rights activist will be going after Central Park zoo next which if they win will close and have a 125 story luxury tower built upon its ruins.

Unknown said...

Right, Anonymous. What about NYPD Mounted Patrol? What about the stabled horses throughout NYC's boroughs? Love how you folks pick on the carriage horses and want to do away with them when there are thousands and thousands of horses with no homes being sent to slaughter every year.

joan67 said...

Consider me another former follower of this blog. Did you even bother to speak to the other animal advocates?

Spotty said...

addressing april 7 "anonymous" comments,....It does not seem that you have a grasp on the actual heart / soul of a work horse , a horse or horseman / women. horses are not big versions of dogs / cats that you take for a walk / pet. You can love them / they do in a way give you unconditional love.Horses that work enjoy what they are doing. They cannot tell you they do. One cannot compare owning one of these great animals to owning like a used car / then trading it in. In a perfect world we would all win the lottery, there would be no one wanting anything, / all horses and animals would run free.

Jeremiah Moss said...

This debate has been thoroughly covered, on both sides, throughout the media. My goal in writing this piece was not to re-tell the debate, but to profile the men who run those stables and to tell their stories in their voices. They, and their stables, are a part of the vanishing New York.

S.S. said...

Every time a story comes out about the carriage horses, the PETA nutjobs always seem to arrive in droves. It is obvious they have a network that they use to alert other wackos to flood comment sections.

These horses are treated better than humans in our homeless shelters. Were is the concern for unfortunate humans?

I know a couple of these PETA people, and they are very mean towards people.
I truly believe the feel more compassion for animals than their own kind.
They are self-loathing humans and their innate compassion is misdirected away from their own and transferred over to animals.

JAZ said...

Anyone who doesn't think this is about real estate is beyond naive. Grow up.

S.S. said...

@Anonymous 9:58 AM
"forced to live their lives in a city, surrounded by exhaust fumes and constantly bombarded by cars and buses"

What about the 8 million of us humans who live under the same conditions?

Such sympathy for animals and none for humans. Such perverted logic and twisted emotions.

Anonymous said...

Love the nutjobs who are going to take their blog reading "business" elsewhere because Jeremiah had the temerity to tell the truth about this issue.

Anonymous said...

I was an urban equestrian. Forced off Staten Island in 1974 as I could see the end coming there . Moved to Long Island for 22 years and than to northern Pennsylvania. Many of us have fled the we want to maintain or equestrian lifestyle. To the activists who think they know all this is not cruelty. Horses love routine, they built NYC~ the horse and the Irish~ take away their contribution and there would not be much left. AS a veterinary assistant I can tell you these horses are well cared for nothing is lacking. There is no abuse or neglect. However, greed, back room political dirty deals, and those who drink the Kool Aid, believe they know more than the horsemen of 59 years of their life. Yes, it is all about the real estate just as it was in Staten Island and Long Island...they have traded hard working taxpayers for those who collect welfare, NYC has an illegal immigrant population of 36% that they know of. Historical buildings and landmark industry in NYC that should be protected and preserved is being persecuted. Once you closed them down and demolish the buildings and more middle class people leave who will support your programs. It should be noted that Steve Nislisk is the founder of NYCLASS, the ASPCA has terminated their own humane officers handing the job over to the over burden NYPD and Humane Society which one...the one who raised millions during Katrina and was not even on the ground down there??? but instead left it to the overburden, understaffed, underfunded local shelters to care for the animals they raised the money to care for. Do you know the ASPCA has a fund raiser who takes 62% of every dollar they collect these days??? Do you even know what is going on in your own city???Once the horses are banned whos' next???? It is only a matter of time. If the ASPCA, Humane Society, and NYCLASS was really worried about stopping animal abuse and cruelty they have their work cut out for them at the NYCACC and their other offices where hundreds of dogs and cats are slaughtered daily with no effort to rehome them. Wake up!

Unknown said...

Why do those who oppose the carriage horses feel they have to have their say as Anonymous. If you feel so strongly let yourself be known.

Unknown said...

Lovely piece. I've followed this issue for awhile, frustrated with all the holes in the coverage by the general media. You filled those holes, I learned something new! I'm an occasional visitor to NYC from the midwest, where I don't have to travel far to enjoy the natural world, see, smell and touch magnificent animals like these beautiful draft horses - is this possible for most NYers? There is no more need to debate that these carriage horses are in excellent condition, well taken care of - from what I know, the owners and drivers have been very responsive to complaints, even to those that are based merely on the perception of urban citizens who don't know horses. The truth is, their work is no more 'cruelty' than is throwing a tennis ball in an urban dog park for an apartment-dwelling Labrador. The protesters seem willfully ignorant about animals. There is something truly hateful about this campaign, the people running it seem consumed by anger, racism, class-ism, ethnic prejudice, self-righteousness. And that's only the animal rights groups. As for the developers and uber wealthy PETA donors . . . well no need for me to explain. Your blog painted a mural-sized image.

I suppose I am a throwback as well - I believe in traditional work, celebrate the idea that loving what you do, no matter how challenging, contributes to society as a whole. Doesn't NYC have some kind of historical society that could 'fight city hall'? Central Park is a historical site, correct? Why not include the horse carriages as inseparable from the park? A permanent injunction against the protesters and their hateful chants and attempts to frighten the horses - literally clean up the streets of NYC. Their dirty language is filthier than a few horse apples. I certainly wouldn't want my grandchildren to have to hear the things they shout.

KingRoper said...

You wouldn't think that closing these stables was such a tragedy if you lived in the W40s and constantly saw carriage drivers push these horses through rush hour traffic, run red lights, wear headphones (!), leave shit piles on the street, and respond to my pleas that "Horses don't belong in traffic" with a hearty, "Fuck you, faggot."
I have no pity whatsoever for these drivers.

Unknown said...

Excellent article! The carriage horses are being driven out so that wealthy developers can have their stables, and it's all based on a lie. The horses are healthy and live happy useful lives, with loving care from their owners, vets, farriers, dentists and stable staff. It's the horses in forgotten fields in the country people need to worry about.

Anonymous said...

There is a strictly enforced law that prevents carriage horses working in extreme temperatures. Horses who work are far preferable to being given to slaughterhouses or being "put out to pasture" with no work at all,some on questionable horse rescue farms which can barely patch together enough money to keep going. And being put out to pasture is not idyllic - most grazing animals eat hay, not grass, as there are not enough pastures to feed them, and HORSES PREFER WORK just like working dogs prefer to work too. I am an animal person, but I respect these animals' rights to work and live as they do now. Perhaps all dogs and cats, and police horses,too, in fact while we are at it,all animal life, should be banned from NYC???

Anonymous said...

Don't worry about losing a loyal follower" for everyone you lose you will gain 10 more. That is how positive people think that is NOT have animal rights people think. they are "takers" not givers". They care nothing for the people nor the horses. Their main goal is to separate people from the animals they love. and of course the real estate is involved. There is nothing "cheap" about it I agree the stables should be on the hi stoic register. That way they would have protection of the money grubbers and the AR crazies.Keep up the excellent work

Space Pope said...

Anon 8:01, Anon 9:58 (loyal follower my left foot!), joan67 (made a profile just for that comment?). "And nothing of value was lost."

Do these guys know how subterfuge works? One way is to get someone out in the activist circles and put a bug in their ear. I've been involved in numerous activist circles in the past and they usual have one or two 'shills' that the corporations and other moneyed interests have on retainer who specialize in stirring up reactionary folks by only giving them a small bit of information; enough to stir them up and get them out to do the dirty work.

Mister Moss is NOT a journalist, but a blogger first and foremost, chronicling things that are happening in the city many old residents, ex-pat New Yorkers and (apparently) new-crop residents would be interested in. This article is presented, in my opinion, to tell the story that the moneymen and neo-liberal activists don't want put out, because it puts a human face on a side that gets no regard.

One thing I want to know is, since the activists speak for the horses, how will they make sure they are being well cared for and happy once they find themselves without work anymore?

Jeremiah Moss said...

Thank you Space Pope, that was well put. I'm not a journalist. I don't really know where I stand on the carriage horse ban, but I do empathize with people who are being squeezed by Big Real Estate. And we can't deny that's a reality in this situation.

Unknown said...

The Anonymous posters who think pulling a carriage in NYC is abuse don't know what abuse is. Every knowledgeable horse person, including veterinarians and the NY and NJ Horse Councils support the carriage horse industry. I have 37 yrs experience with horses and live on a farm, and from the descriptions I've read about how the NYC horses live, I can tell you that their quality of life is much better than many "country" horses. People without years of hands on experience should NOT be telling horsemen what horses need.

Unknown said...

Excellent article. Puts a real face on the carriage owners, not just the drivers. We always knew it was about real estate. But the demonizing done by the animal rights activists, Which, in case you did not know, DOES include HSUS and ASPCA, not just NYClass can be defused to the general public, hopefully, with rational, intelligent, well written articles like this.

Andrew Porter said...

Excellent post. I thank my 1968 self every day that I live in Brooklyn Heights, where no one is going to tear down the brownstones to put up enormous soul-destroying buildings. —Andrew

Anonymous said...

Hi, thanks for this beautiful piece. What an amazing history the horses and stables have in our city. It really does seem like a class issue to me, where working-class men and women are driven out along with another piece of unique New York culture.

You animal rights people claim to care about horses, but these men obviously know more than you about the care and welfare of their animals. Go do your shift at the Park Slope food co op and find some other knee-jerk liberal cause to complain about and do nothing about.

Why don't you care about working class people? Anyway, the horses only walk in traffic on their way to the park, and it is clear to me from this article that the men who own these horses LOVE them. Maybe you can put them in your yard with your stupid hipster chickens once they have no homes and jobs.

Anonymous said...

To be a kid in the city and have a chance to see these horses passing by was so exciting. A carriage ride was too expensive for us, but at least we got to see the horses up close!

Marcia Curran said...

Jeremiah, I re-read my post and it sounded a little funny to me, I didn't mean that I thought YOU were giving the drivers and owners a hard time! Loved your writing. I feel like the owners/drivers are subject to an amazing amount of rudeness when they are at work in the park, that's what I meant. All the best.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for offering the vanishing human side of this story. The link between horses and humans is unique, traditional, and satisfying to both parties.
As we endure the loss of our traditions and history, we each become a bit more sterile, a bit more plastic, a bit more like the robotic humans in science fiction novels. I applaud those who stand up to continue the traditions, particularly when there is no credible evidence of harm.
There is so much evidence that traditions including NYC carriage horses add to the enrichment of human beings. Traditions are part of the very human experience. Without them we may as well be cyber dummies.

Sorry that I have to check the anon box since I don't have access to the other links.

Jeremiah Moss said...

Thanks Marcia, I didn't take it in a bad way.

Anonymous said...

This stable might look fine to people who haven't worked with horses, but one of the big issues I have with it is how many horses they jam in there--you can see that in the photo--and the lack of an outdoor space for them to roam freely and play. I believe this building was once a tenement. It wasn't built as a stable and there isn't space around it for the animals to go out. And do we really need horse-drawn carriages in the city? Horses are made nervous by the sounds of the traffic. That's why they wear blinders. We don't need to do this to them, but it all comes down to money. People are making money off these animals.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the horses do not belong in the streets and traffic but have always thought the happy medium would be to have the carriages restricted to riding just in the park with weather/temperature restrictions for the horses' protection.

laura r. said...

this is just a quick comment about the horses. read there was a law passed that they were kept inside & not allowed to work when temperture was very hot. sorry i havnt had time to read all the comments & study artical. any info about that law?

Caleo said...

A big thanks to Jeremiah for another great piece, and for having the guts to present a side to the story that all of the so called progressives wish would just shut up and go away... namely, working class culture and history. These caretakers know more about horses and their welfare than Brendan and the various Anon.'s ever will.
It never ceases to amaze me when sanctimonious progressives simply parrot their rote responses to various issues, never really considering that there might be another side to the story worth listening to, let alone changing their opinion based on new information. Better to stick to the script and scream heretic at anyone who challenges your assumptions.
This was a great piece, and you've gained as many new readers as you've lost due to your ability to present a side to this issue seldom seen elsewhere.
Who would have thought actually talking to the much maligned drivers and owners of the horses would trigger such venom. You struck a nerve, Jeremiah. Keep digging.

Brendan said...

By the way, I have no opinion on the ban at this point; I'm not informed enough about the issue. What I object to so strongly here is smearing animal welfare advocates, agree with them or not, as shills and dupes of the real estate industry on the basis of no evidence whatsoever and without giving any of them a chance to speak for themselves.

I know "animal people" in real life. They're sincere. They're definitely not a bunch of limousine liberal types, as some of your sillier commenters believe. They can be a weird bunch, but they're actually one of the broadest cross-sections of New Yorkers you'll find anywhere.

Also, frankly, the fact that you're all so strongly on the same side as Bloomberg, usually Public Enemy Number One around here, should at least complicate the idea that it's all a real estate front.

Unknown said...

Awesome artical! Glad to finally hear the other side of the story. It really makes sence who is really running the show and yet again the hard working little guy that bends over to make sure all the bleeding hearts are happy and still get it in theass.
Shame one the developers and the animal rights nuts.

laura r. said...

anon 4:37pm, where else do the horses rides besides the park? they should be restricted to stay there & walk back to the stables. jeremiah, you voted for de blasio, he was a liar w/a creepy past. another obama. hes a corrupt lying politican worse than the other mayors in some ways. what has he dont for NYC? lets see if he puts in some affordable housing. (right....sure....). sometimes "image" can be decieving as its only packaging. i read a disgusting tweet from one of his employees. @ least w/bloomberg you knew what you were getting. this guy is just like the freaks in the white house. hes not fighting the horse ban, hes taking a piece of the action once the realestate is sold. btw, dont fall for that whole far left alternative family BS. w/de blasio it's a set up. walked like a duck in central america....walk the same here. there is little history left in NY, once one of the greatest cities in the world.

Unknown said...

Another example of how the ignorant defend banning the horses. I quote, "Horses are made nervous by the sounds of the traffic. That's why they wear blinders."
No, that isn't why they wear blinders. First, blocking vision does not remove sound. Second, ALL harness horses wear blinders. Look at the trotters and pacers on the racetrack, look at the Budweiser Clydesdales and any other hitched horse. Blinders help them focus on the job at hand and keep them from being distracted by the cart they are pulling.

Also, what is wrong with a horse earning its keep and that of the person who cares for him? It's mutually beneficial.

Anonymous said...

It is all about the money. It is not a cheap excuse. Where is your protest about NYPD horses? Going after the Amish are you? This is all about real estate and Nislick has you poor suckers duped. Try a little critical thinking. Nislick and NYCLASS are eelitist (not misspelled) monsters. Cynical, grasping, blackhearted sociopaths. You have been used as a dupe.

Anonymous said...

The ASPCA tried to pull this with circus animals and lost. Lost and paid out. My name is Liz_@blizzbake

Anonymous said...

Brava liz_@blizzbake

Anonymous said...

EVERYTHING in New York is about money today. Don't delude yourself into thinking otherwise. Why is it so hard to believe that parasitic, billionaire developers would use these horses as a pretext to shut down stables and acquire this very valuable real estate, when our venerable country exaggerated the importance of forged documents as a pretext for war with Iraq?
When the rich and powerful want something, they will get it. I'm sad to know the horses will not be here in a generation, but then again, anything quintessentially New York will not be here in a generation.

Mitch said...

Jeremiah - I know you disclaim the title of journalist, but I think you do a better job covering the city than the newspapers. Someone from the Daily News is not doubt plagiarizing this story right now.

vzabuser said...

Its simple- and I don't know why no one has suggested this. The Horses could continue if only the city would put the whole thing into the park. That is, no more trolling for customers on 59th street. Just build a facility right inside the park, where the Horses could be safe waiting for a pickup. That way interaction with motorized traffic would be minimized!

laura r. said...

vsabuzer, i have thought about this too. maybe you can call the mayors office or go on line or twitter. id several hundred people contact the congressmen mayor etc, maybe somethng can be done? the horses would thank you too!

Anonymous said...

The carriage horse industry is animal cruelty plain and simple.

When you make a horse walk up and down avenues and streets with traffic and noise all around and constantly subject them to a possible horrible death (actual in two cases off the top of my head) , you are being cruel to it hence animal cruelty (horse = animal, being cruel = cruelty.)

I'm for the banning of police horses, too.

All you people for the carriage horse industry ask yourself would you want one of these horses to be slammed into by a car then put down in front of hundreds of people including children? I wouldn't.

These 50-60 carriage horse drivers have been offered the chance to drive replica electric cars people would ride in. 'Say you give eight rides (a ride an hour) at $30 a ride five days a week. That's $1200 gross a week - nice money for doing 15-20 minutes of work an hour assuming a ride is 15-20 min.


Anonymous said...

De Blasio caved to Animal Rights pressure before the election for one reason: he knew that the activists would act up and embarrass him if he didn't.

Upper East Side dowagers and the like, with too much time on their hands, are also behind this - and as another commenter said, they are being used as dupes by the real estate/money people. "Oh the poor suffering animals" - give me break.
It's so easy to get behind a cause, complaining but doing basically nothing, when you have a lot of money and too much time on your hands. But they still wear shoes and clothes made by sweatshop labor, don't they?

Jeremiah, as he so often is, is 100% right in his assessment of this situation.

Anonymous said...

Of course the guy is not personally "interested in acquiring the real estate" - that's what shell companies are for.

chris flash said...

vzabuser: That's a great idea and would be a perfect solution IF they wanted a solution, but they DON'T.

This is an obvious real estate grab being facilitated by bought-and-paid-for mayor DeBlasio, who openly took A LOT of real estate money, though he had NO competition during his mayoral campaign. He took their money and they always get what they pay for.

Jeremiah: Your piece was beautifully written, revealing the human side of the story that the mainstream media dupes the public into ignoring or demonizing. Thank you for this and WHO GIVES A FUCK about losing followers of your blog, as if that is meant to shut you up, lest you "lose' more followers?? (By the way, you ARE a journalist, in the very best sense of the word.)

I am a militant animal lover, but I do not see "cruelty" here. You have shown us the love between the stable owners and their horses. I do not not want to see these owners lose their businesses, their horses and their properties, and I especially do not want to see MORE hyper-gentrification in what's left of my city.

Unfortunately, the city can make use of the Supreme Court's Kelo decision, whereby private property can be acquired through "eminent domain' for the benefit of private real estate developers. (The NY Times, which not surprisingly supported the Kelo decision, got the city to use eminent domain to acquire an entire block of Eighth Avenue frontage from 40th - 41st Streets, across from Port Authority, where the Times built its new headquarters and then had the Times printed in New Jersey, violating the tax abatement deal they made with the city whereby the Times was to continue printing in their building at 229 West 43rd Street -- but that's another story, already covered in The SHADOW.)

I hope that enough exposure, adverse publicity and pressure can be applied to DeBlasio to make him leave these few remaining stables ALONE, but sadly, I don't see it happening....

Anonymous said...

Comments about real estate don't explain why people like myself would like to see an end to urban carriages.

rKopperdahl said...

I didn't know that the mayor's interests in doing away with the carriage horses had less to do with "humane" considerations than with real estate issues. But when his notion to replace the carriages with replica electric cars was originally the idea of the real estate guy who is developing the west side and a major contributor to the mayor's campaign, it all becomes clear. If the city is no place for horses, it's no place for pets and children or old folks or rich people or developers or trees or birds or any living thing.

Yank said...

One occasional problem here is the writers eagerness to take a side, then the claim to be 'just telling stories'.
You have definitely taken a side here. And you always do; you do not simply profile. That's one of the things I like about you.
I usually agree with you. But it only takes a short journey up to the park, eyes, and a simple understanding of animals to see these animals, and their real sadness.
I don't get how you can flag up so many aspects of the new NYC that cater for the rich, and for tourists, and support this clearly unkind trade, which caters solely for the rich and the tourists.
Jeremiah, are you so against change that you can support this business (and it is, of course, a business) and not see how clearly unhappy these horses are? All you need to do is look closely, after all. Please respond.

Anonymous said...

I really have not seen this side of the story in the mainstream press. Thank you once again Jeremiah.

Anonymous said...

"Behind the ban are the pleas of animal rights activists, who see the urban housing and driving of carriage horses as cruelty."

How completely ridiculous. I reckon the scenery carriage horses of Vienna, Rome and Paris too must suffer enormously then.


The irony of this white liberal suburban animal rights nonsense, is of course that in a few years the US fracking boom will dry up and we'll begin to see the effects of a post Peak Oil world in earnest. By then, not only the speculators will leave New York as the global economy slumps to unprecedented lows, but sooner or later the trusted horse will probably have to re-emerge on city streets as well.

Wouldn't it be better for NYC to face that future with the last of its traditional liveries and a cadre of competent horsemanship intact?

The Gothenburg Swede

Sandy said...

I cannot believe all the hogwash I'm seeing about the carriage horse issue. You know it's about the real estate, just like the war in the deserts overseas is about oil. They all think they are fooling the people. Jeremiah knows what he is talking about. I pray this can be settled in the near future. I wish I had money to send for the horses and their owners to help them fight this fight. It makes me mad to see and hear all the crap that these "animal lovers" dish out. They really don't know much about the situation at all, but they think there's something in it for them. As far as PETA and the Humane Society, I would not give 1 dime to their organization. They don't even know right from wrong. The world seems to be going crazy. Hang in there, horses and their people. We can only pray for the best.

Honest Rob said...


andrea said...

These horses get their outdoor time in the park where they stand and snooze for a good part of the day, ear grain for a part of the day and walk about pulling carriages for a part of the day.

I can look out my window right now at my horses in the files and do you know what they do? They stand and snooze for a good part of the day, they eat grass for part of the day and they walk around a good part oft he day.

I have been involved with horses since 1977 when my eager 10 year old self had my first riding lesson. I currently own 9 horses and manage a stable of 37 horses. I can tell you that The carriage horses have very cushy lives. Their work is not a hard job. Carriages are four wheeled which me and there is no weight on the horse other than the weight of the harness and shafts. The wheels have ball bearings on the axles which means the carriages glide along based on momentum. They pull on asphalt which is smooth and was originally designed for carriages and horses as it provides a smooth surface but has give to make it easier on legs. A loaded carriage can be moved from a stand still with about a 50 pound effort and maintained with minimal effort.

Carriage horses can only work between temps of 18 and 89 degrees, they can only work 9 hours every 24, they must have a break every 2 hours while working, they must have vaccines twice yearly, they must have dentals yearly, they must have hooves trimmed and shoes reset every 6 weeks. They must have a 5 week vacation out of the city every year (most are on vacation for 3-4 months). Most people do not have it this good.

The horses are stables in stalls where they can turn around and lie down and visit with their neighbors. They have constant access to hay and have automatic water while stabled. They are on rubber matted stalls bedded with soft straw and they have warm blankets for winter and cool misting fans for summer.their stables also have fire sprinklers and are inspected by the fire Marshall at least annually.

If you think these horses are abused, then I don't want to imagine what you th I k about horses of the American cowboys and the work and living conditions they have. I don't want to imagine what you think about the average horse living in a backyard situation. I don't want to imagine what you think about million dollar show horses in rigorous training programs.

The carriage horses have better lives than the majority of horses in the world.

laura r. said...

andrea, what do they do w/the horses when they are "on vacation"? do they go to the park? do they bring them somewhere else? to the poster who thinks deblasio "caved" to animal rights groups: NO politican "caves". they have a hand in the pie. his campaign contributer wants the property. who's side do you think hes on? hes no humanitarian. he hangs out w/ billionares. the animal rights groups are nuts anyway. these horses get plenty of rest right in the park between rides. the stalls look comfy, they can see the other horses. someone w/$ should suggest the stables get moved to central park. deblasio may ok that. (electric cars are tacky, dont even go there). great piece jeremah.