New York City has itself a new mayor. And the first thing he is going to is tackle the city’s biggest problem of…horse drawn carriages?
De Blasio’s campaign website lists “A Humane City for New York’s Animals” as 14th in an overall list of issue priorities. But at a press conference Monday, De Blasio said, “We are going to get rid of horse carriages, period,” bumping the issue up to be one of the first tasks he undertakes as mayor. The escalation of priorities deserves scrutiny. Let’s put De Blasio to the side for a moment and take a closer look at some players in the horse drawn carriage opposition “industry.”
One of New York City’s biggest advocates for banning horse-drawn carriages has been a group called New Yorkers for Clean Livable And Safe Streets (NYCLASS). Sounds like a decent group, right? Everybody likes clean, livable, and safe streets! Animals seem to be an afterthought in the organization name, but at least they found room to clarify on their website tagline “Get political for animals.”
NYCLASS is a 501(c)4 non-profit “social welfare” organization. We’re assuming the IRS didn’t give this group the same flack in issuing their non-profit status the same way they have with other groups recently.
The group’s founder, Steve Nislick includes his bio on the website as a member of the NYCLASS board of directors. Steve is “an avid equestrian,” “animal lover,” and “proud rescue dad of a former NYC carriage horse.” Lovely titles–that is exactly the kind of background suggesting someone would create a non-profit organization concerned with clean livable and safe streets that also advocates for animal rights. If only that were true.
Steve Nislick seems to have left a bit out of his bio. Both of the other board members listed a three paragraph bio on the website. Let’s help Steve a little bit since he seems to have forgotten about spending the past four decades at Edison Properties, a New Jersey-based real estate property development and investment firm.
But it seems that Mr. Nislick wasn’t always as slick at covering his connections to real estate development when it comes to the ongoing dispute over horse-drawn carriage rides in the city.
In 2009 Michael Gross published an article on his website after finding a 5-page pamphlet supporting a horse carriage ban, signed by none other than Steve Nislick.
In the article Gross quotes from the Nislick pamphlet that banning horse-drawn carriages would be “‘a windfall for the carriage industry from the sale of its multi-million-dollar stables alone.’ Nislick writes, before getting to his real point. ‘Currently, the stables consist of 64,000 square feet of valuable real estate on lots that could accomodate up to 150,000 square feet of development. These lots could be sold for new development.‘”
HMMM! So the CEO of a real estate development and management company suddenly finds himself to be an emphatic friend of animals. The same CEO with nearly all of his company’s business interests in the City of New York. The same CEO whose company owns several storage and parking businesses situated in the same West Midtown area as the stables for the horses that power New York’s iconic horse-drawn carriage industry. And the same CEO who founded a social welfare organization that just happens to support a candidate who wants…well…what he wants. Neat, huh?! What a coincidence!!!
Besides putting his energy behind NYCLASS, Nislick also contributed the maximum $4,950 for an individual campaign contribution, held a fund raiser on Dec 13, 2010 for De Blasio, and in his board role at NYCLASS would have approved expenditures of some $770,000 for attack advertisements against De Blasio’s primary opponent Christine Quinn. Sounds like a lot of effort to get to 14th place on the mayor’s list of priorities.
Let’s put Nislick back in his stable and return now to New York’s new mayor. De Blasio claims on his campaign website that carriage horses suffer “abuse” and “inhumane treatment” which must be immediately banned in favor of “electric, vintage-replica tourist-friendly vehicles.”
But the New York Post reports that it looked into investigations completed by the city that might provide some evidence that there is widespread abuse or inhumane treatment of carriage horses. It found both the city health department and the ASPCA conducted investigations that determined no serious violations existed in terms of safety or health of the horses. The carriage industry hired a veterinarian from Cornell University to examine its horses. His report found “45% of the 130 animals inspected were “fat,” 50% were in good condition and 5% would be classified as thin. The thin horses were not unhealthy, just thin.” As far as finding any evidence of maltreatment of animals, there isn’t any. So what is the justification for government involvement?
May we humbly suggest, that if tourists wanted to be driven around the city or Central Park in electric, vintage-replica tourist-friendly vehicles, that an enterprising individual would be providing the service already. Maybe Steve Nislick could have taken his 3/4 of a million spent on political activities and used it as seed money to start such a business. He then could have seen for himself if the market wanted electric, vintage-replica tourist-friendly vehicles. When his business enjoyed undoubted success, he could have put the horse drawn carriage industry out of business and bought the property he coveted at a bankruptcy auction.
But instead, Nislick’s answer is to find a political opportunist in Bill De Blasio and legions of polyezniy idiots of liberal and progressive activists supporting causes like animal rights, social justice, and environmental activism to use as his and try to use the power of government to achieve his goals. The resulting loss of freedom impacts tourists, consumers, and the owners and employees of the current horse drawn industry.
And it’s important to remember that the existing business–despite being despised by political opportunists–are real people. Horse drawn carriage operators in the city accounts for more than $15 million in economic activity and provides nearly 300 jobs and stables for 200 horses. What about their freedom to operate their business without being badgered by idiot politicians who can’t find something better to do with the public’s time?
We’ll point out that Democrat Bill De Blasio doesn’t have a monopoly on this bad idea. His Republican opponent in the mayor’s race, Joe Lhota, is reported as supporting replacing the horse drawn carriages with electric carriages also. It goes to show that neither party is immune from putting forward freedom killing bad ideas and pretending that government knows best or has the answers to life’s ills.
Business owners attempting to purchase political power within the colossus of government in order to achieve their business goals through force is not capitalism. This is corporatism and “crony capitalism,” better known as crapitalism. But it is not what one would expect to find in a society that values freedom, market competition, or free markets.
It’s what one would expect to find in a banana republic run by a despotic dictator where the dictator’s friends are rewarded for their loyalty and support. And where the dictator’s enemies are punished in order to give spoils to the supporters. (Kind of reminds us of how our current president does business, who commented on Oct. 25, 2010: “We’re gonna punish our enemies and we’re gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us.”).
We hope this effort to demonize one of New York’s tourist industries fails. The logic and politics behind the movement to end the horse drawn carriages are based on fraud, corruption, and kind of smell a lot like a steaming pile of the stuff that comes from the horses the mayor and his ilk are trying to forcibly retire.