Demonstrators from the animal rights group NYCLASS want Councilman James Vacca to support pending City Council legislation to ban horse-drawn carriages in the city.
The group said they are targeting Vacca because he sponsored legislation several years ago to change the carriage industry.
The handful of protestors assembled outside his office on January 12 and urged the councilman to “Keep your promise to the animals.”
But Vacca said the previous bill he supported was more about the humane treatment of the carriage horses and did not have the same potential for job losses.
The councilman said he cares about animals greatly and does have concerns about the horses being treated humanely.
But the current legislation, which would provide avenues for carriage drivers to get green cab medallions, does not yet have his blessing.
Jose Bhuiyan, an organizer with NYCLASS, said the bill offers an opportunities for the drivers in an outdated industry to get 21st Century jobs.
“We know its not politically feasible for councilmembers to vote for this with out an alternative,” said Bhuiyan.
But Vacca said he feels the current bill doesn’t adequately address the threat to employment.
“I think this could end up with people losing jobs,” said Vacca.
The councilman’s other reservation about the current bill concerns the historic nature of the horse-drawn carriage industry.
“Tradition’s no reason to keep an inhumane industry alive,” Bhuiyan.
Vacca said he thinks there could be some compromise by making the industry more humane or limiting it’s scope.
“I don’t think wiping out the industry is the answer,” he said.
It seems the protestors outside his office won’t have much effect on Vacca’s decision making process.
“I’m not going to be swayed by them,” he said. “I think the issue should be studied outside of demonstrations.”
He still has plenty of time to examine the issue, since the current bill is pending while an environmental impact study is conducted. It will be several months before a hearing or vote on the bill is held.
Fellow Bronx Councilman Andy King has made up his mind on the subject. He was listed as a sponsor on previous legislation, but has changed his stand.
“I do not support the ban on horse and carriages,” he said. “I do not see any justifiable reason to do away with an industry that has been an exciting part of New York City’s history and employs more than 400 – just because someone says so.”
He said one reason, among others, is that he doesn’t understand the argument that the horses are a danger to the public because they can become spooked by cars, yet police horses don’t fit into that category.
“And besides, we have a whole lot of issues in New York to address other than an industry that has done nothing but enhance the love and enchantment of New York City.”
Councilman Ritchie Torres recently told Capital New York that he is undecided on the legislation, and is frustrated by the amount of time and attention the issue has garnered.