Nicole Gelinas says carriage horse ban idea is troubling
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
April 10 will mark Bill de Blasio’s 100th day in office and a New York Post columnist offered an assessment of the mayor’s tenure so far, telling the Brooklyn Conservative Party that the mayor’s proposed ban on carriage horses on city streets bears particular scrutiny.
Nicole Gelinas, the keynote speaker at the Conservative Party’s annual brunch at the Bay Ridge Manor on April 6, called the proposed ban on the tourist-friendly carriage horse industry “a targeted attack on the small business community.”
Banning carriage horses “seems like a small, niche issue, but it’s not,” said Gelinas, who is also a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal.
For one thing, de Blasio’s plan marks a first, according to Gelinas. “It’s the first time a mayor is trying to make a legal business illegal,” she said. While his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, banned smoking in most public places, he didn’t outright outlaw the practice, Gelinas noted. “This is a precedent,” she said, referring to the carriage horse ban plan.
The ban could adversely affect other businesses that employ the use of animals, according to Gelinas, who said circus acts and shows at Radio City Music Hall could be next.
Aside from the immediate impact on the carriage horse industry, De Blasio’s plan should come under scrutiny for another reason, Gelinas said. It offers a window into his mindset and how he plans to govern the city, she said. It also gives New Yorkers a view of how the mayor responds to special-interest groups, the New York Post columnist said. “This carries into other ways he does other parts of his job,” she said.
The city’s horse carriage industry employs 330 people. Under de Blasio’s plan, which he presented on his campaign website when he was running for mayor, the horse-drawn carriages would be banned from city streets and from Central Park and replaced with electric cars. On the campaign website, de Blasio called his plan, “A Humane City for New York City’s Animals.”
“Bill de Blasio will end the inhumane treatment of carriage horses and supports an immediate ban on abuse of carriage horses,” the website statement reads.
The website shows a photo of de Blasio standing with members of New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets (NYCLASS), an organization that is pushing for the carriage horse ban and which contributed money to de Blasio’s mayoral campaign.
The horses are not mistreated, Gelinas said. The animals are humanely treated and are even taken off the city streets five weeks a year to give them a rest, she said.
A slew of celebrities have spoken out on the hot-button issue, with actor Liam Neeson siding with the carriage drivers and actor Alec Baldwin urging the ban.
A recent Quinnipiac University poll found that New Yorkers oppose de Blasio’s plan 64-24 percent.
Another development that New Yorkers should be watching closely is how de Blasio settles contracts with the city’s labor unions, all of whom are eager to negotiate the best possible financial deal for their members, Gelinas said. In some cases, the union’s contract with the city expired five years ago.
Even if the mayor just gave a cost of living raise to unions, it could cost the city between $3.5 and $7.5 billion, according to Gelinas, who is a certified financial analyst. “A 10 percent raise costs more than $2 billion a year,” she said.
Generous union contracts could keep de Blasio from spending the city’s money on other things, such as improving the city’s infrastructure, Gelinas said. “The more money we spend on bad labor contracts is money we cannot spend on infrastructure,” she said.
Gelinas also predicted that de Blasio will eventually win his fight to convince Albany to raise taxes on the wealthy to fund universal pre-kindergarten classes. “Over time, he will get his tax increase,” she said.