Monday, January 18, 2016

Beware a Trojan Horse Compromise


A toddler offers an apple to a carriage horse last year.
Dilapidated, century-old building at 86th Street Transverse that mayor wants to magically transform into "stable" to house 75 carriage horses. (Photo credit: Geoffrey Croft, NYC Park Advocates.)
 
"Compromise: A way of settling differences by everybody making concessions."
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Beset by unrealistic campaign promises and an albatross that has plagued his administration for two years now, Mayor deBlasio has pushed, what is being touted, a "compromise" bill on the New York City carriage horse controversy.  The hasty, back room "agreement" was recently struck between the mayor and the teamsters union, representing carriage drivers. (City Council has to approve.)
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The proposed deal, "whose details have yet to be worked out," calls for a reduction in carriage horses from the current 200 to 95 and restriction of the horses to Central Park. It stipulates creation of a stable in Central Park to accommodate 75 of the horses -- most likely, a "refurbishing" of the antiquated structure on the 86th Street Transverse that once housed police horses.  
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Fair and just compromise on any issue is complex and usually entails much painstaking time listening to and communicating with all invested parties, as well as research into workable solutions to the impasse.
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But, deBlasio has never personally met with carriage drivers nor visited existing stables. And though he has met with those who handsomely contributed to and supported his mayoral campaign (to the tune of more than a million dollars), he doesn't understand the main concerns of many Animal Protectionists (including, this one).  
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How can deBlasio thus, judge fairly and wisely and make proposals affecting not only carriage horses, but their handlers and owners, as well as the general public and many others?
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It doesn't seem he can.
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Rather, deBlasio appears to simply want to get the monkey off his back -- and in the process, gain the rich land that the current stables sit on for the sake of his wealthy real estate developers and contributors.
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Though not a "necessity," carriage horses in New York City are and have always been a popular attraction for millions of lovers, tourists and park goers ever since Central Park was built in the late 19th century. Carriage horses have been clip clopping through the famous and prestigious park for 157 years.
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Many refer to the industry as "iconic." But, mostly carriage horses provide a pleasant and ambient service for humans: That of a relaxing horse carriage ride through the bucolic setting of Central Park. Other times, the horses provide opportunity for connection between harried city dwellers who rarely see a large animal in city confines and the very animals who helped to build New York City.
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But, deBlasio's "answer" to a crowded and stressed city is to create further congestion with the building of still more towering high rises on the small stretches of west side land that the current stables occupy.
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All this, while "reducing" a beloved tradition and service to the city and kicking out, not only many carriage horses and drivers, but approximately 40 necessary park maintenance workers, (mostly engineers, electricians, plumbers and blacksmiths) from their current work space in Central Park. The latter is in order to magically transform the century old, dilapidated structure at the 86th Street Transverse into a "stable" to accommodate 75 carriage horses.   
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(Others unhappy with the mayor's "plan" are the pedicab drivers who compete with carriage horse drivers at Central Park South. Apparently the bill restricts them to working above 85th Street in the park -- an area of few tourists. One of the pedicab drivers is threatening to sue the city for potential loss of income and/or job.) 
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Among the numerous and perplexing "details not worked out in the plan" is how exactly the horses are to enter and exit the "stable" via the extremely narrow and congested 86th Street Transverse (see photo) nor how they are to make their way to 59th Street from 86th Street as the Bridal Path is not appropriate for horse carriages.
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Nor is it stated who exactly is paying for costly "renovations" to the dungeon-like structure right off the Transverse (supposedly to be completed by 2018) nor where carriages, equipment and supplies are to be stored.
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But, perhaps most significant of all, it is not explained how 95 horses pick up the normal work load for nearly 200 nor what ultimately happens to the approximately 100 suddenly displaced horses.  http://m.nydailynews.com/opinion/buck-bad-deal-article-1.2498691
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There are no "severance packages" for domestic horses who no longer have a  job. Instead, there are slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada.
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(Though the bill reportedly forbids the direct auctioning off of horses to slaughter, there is no way to guarantee that unemployed carriage horses won't fall through the cracks and loopholes. Many will likely be returned to Amish farms where there are few regulations and the animals work much harder than the easy clip clop through Central Park.  Moreover, horses are usually discarded when no longer able to do the hard labor required on Amish farms. Such are not "sanctuaries" or "retirement homes" for horses.)
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Just as any restaurant owner knows how many waiters s/he needs to properly serve the customers while also adhering to labor laws, the carriage industry knows how many horses are necessary to serve the desirous public, while at the same time, adhering to the animal welfare laws and regulations. (i.e. rotation of workers through shifts, days off and vacations) 
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Reducing the number of "servers" while desire for a service remains the same, (whether in human or animal endeavors) seems a recipe for either, potential abuse through overwork of those still employed or ultimate failure. Put simply, those enterprises unable to meet customer desire for the service (or product) ultimately go out of business.
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In that sense, the mayor's proposal seems little more than a veiled attempt to handcuff and cripple the carriage horse industry, resulting in actual abuse and or death to the horses and loss of many human jobs, from carriage drives, to stable hands, farriers, groomers, to park maintenance workers to pedicab operators.
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The dictionary defines compromise as, "A way of settling differences by everybody making concessions."
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But, concession should not equal dismantling of structure and purpose of popular and positive business enterprises, as well as abilities to actually serve.
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Nor, from an animal welfare standpoint, should "concession" result in actual abuse of animals and/or potential death to many or even all of them eventually. 
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In short, no one wins in this particular "compromise." -- Save perhaps, already wealthy, land and real estate developers.
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The mayor's office describes this ill thought out, inept plan as an, "agreement in concept."
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That seems appropriate as concepts are little more than ideas or dreams.
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This one appears a pipe dream with little root in reality, economics, practicality or human and animal welfare.
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As the saying goes, "Haste makes waste."
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Hopefully, the City Council sees the many gaping holes in this Trojan Horse "compromise", nixes it and insists on going back to the drawing board -- no matter how much a desperate mayor stamps his feet or tries to shove it down their throats. -- PCA
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