Written by: Heather Clemenceau
Most people who oppose urban carriages are used to being told that they have “limited horse knowledge” or that they don’t live in New York City, etc. etc. and therefore have no right to render an opinion. But much of the propaganda being churned out in favour of the urban carriage industry is written by so-called journalists who are themselves seriously limited in their understanding not only of the business they are writing about, but of horses in general. Some authors are enviable in their ability to produce 10,000 words per day attesting to the carriage horses’ overall “happiness” and love of their work, but again, they are also not “horse people.” This observation does not seem to lend itself to criticism by the urban carriage trade though……
A great many comments I have seen over the last few months have been made by those who support leaving the carriage horses on the streets because they are active in the industry itself. They have made it sound as if a very small minority of animal advocates are the only ones who favour a ban on horse drawn carriages, and everyone else is in it for the big “Real Estate Grab.”
In a recent, blatantly promotional article, published originally on a pro-dog breeding, pro-kennel club website, numbers and statements about the carriage trade are regularly tossed about like pennies into a fountain. I’ve chosen some of the more unverifiable and outrageous statements from the aforementioned article and provided some real-life context to refute them. Sometimes, the most damning statements come from the carriage trade themselves. So here we go…
“They also have a mandatory five weeks annual vacation that must include unlimited feed and free run of green pastures.”
You can believe in the five weeks “vacation” or not. There are many reasons why, in my opinion, this mandated “vacation” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Especially if it isn’t actually a holiday if horses are sent to Amish country for their R&R, where they are, unbeknownst to the average person, used as work horses on farms they are loaned to. And what is this ridiculous comment about “unlimited feed?” Haven’t the carriage peeps been telling us forever that horses shouldn’t be on grass or they will founder? Common sense would seem to dictate that you can’t give any horse unlimited feed either, which shows exactly how much the author of this article knows about horses (or has been spoon-fed). No one can say with any certainly that any of the horses are on a green pasture anyway – the pasture, if it exists, is just as likely to be a dirt paddock. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
“Prices usually exceed $200,000 when they do. Most medallions are inherited. Families have carried on this business for generations, and no one is getting rich.”
It’s unclear what a medallion (license to operate a carriage business in NYC) is actually worth in present value terms. Some drivers said they paid $30,000 for their medallions 25 years ago. So obviously they are worth a considerable sum
of money, given what the average income must be for the 68 medallion holders bringing in an estimated $15-$19 million dollars to the economy – an amount that has been corroborated by the Communications Liaison for the Horse and Carriage Association of New York City. Therefore, to determine how “working class” the industry is as a whole, a little arithmetic can be applied as follows:
$15,000,000/68 medallions = average gross income of $220,588 per medallion owner (low-balling the industry estimate)
$19,000,000/68 medallions = average gross income of $279,412 per medallion owner (applying the upper limit of the estimate)
The problem is that the carriage industry may be talking out of both sides of their feedbag. Perhaps they didn’t anticipate that by arriving at the estimate of $15 – $19 million “investment” into New York City, that there would be people who could do basic arithmetic and figure out what the average gross income would be for 68 medallion owners (or half-medallion owners). So now, the claim that “nobody’s getting rich” is much harder for the average reader to choke down. Especially since the vast majority of that income is cash. To further throw shade on the claim that the medallion owners are just working class people struggling to earn a living in this cash-based economy, we have the testimony of ”StopLiesSeeTruth,” a prolific YouTube videographer and carriage owner, who claims to be earning an exemplary income that affords him the opportunity to invest in “real estate and other businesses.” There seems to be a lot of variation in terms of income, depending on whether one is bragging about it, or declaring it for taxation purposes.
“Horses are kept at four stables in Manhattan. All are currently cooperatively owned and managed within the industry. Even so, expenses for each horse run about $20-$25,000 annually.”
A feature of this blog post is obviously to quote the carriage people back to themselves and point out the ridiculousness of both their overstated claims and the claims of their propagandists. So again I’m using the assertions of a NYC carriage supporter who obligingly provides estimates of the basic costs of looking after and providing stabling for an urban horse in the city. Obviously, the supporter providing these numbers has omitted many other expenses in the operation of a carriage business, such as Insurance, wages, haulage, and other potential medical expenses, but even with the addition of these other costs, the cost for caring for one urban horse in no way approaches $25,000. And these costs are gross expenses from business income (again, predominately cash) while people such as myself who have taxes deducted at source, pay for board and veterinary expenses using after tax dollars. The minimum requirements for insurance coverages are also very modest:
$25,000 for bodily injury of any one person resulting from any one accident
$50,000 for bodily injury of two or more persons resulting from any one accident
$50,000 for death of any one person resulting from any one accident
$100,000 for death of two or more persons resulting from any one accident
$10,000 for destruction of property resulting from any one accident
These are not high liability coverages by any stretch of the imagination. Coverage for only $50,000 for the death of one person is ridiculously low. By comparison, I have an all-perils liability policy for $5 million, at a cost of about $200 per year in premiums. God help any carriage owner who has the misfortune of being the cause of serious injury or death of a young, professional, high income earner in a carriage accident, someone who has a young family or years of income earning potential curtailed by a disabling injury…..
Despite having insurance, this carriage driver might have been worried about an insurance claim, since he apparently left the scene of an accident without providing details of his insurance coverage to the other parties in the vehicle:
From the same source, we also get an idea of the various permit fees required, which again, will not bring the total expenses anywhere near $25,000. Carriage Operators of North America – CONA also has sourced out several equine insurance providers that can cover mortality, business insurance, life insurance, excess coverages, and insurance against crime. Again, most business people pay for these (with the possible exception of equine mortality) off their pre-tax income, so the carriage trade is not really any different from most other sole-proprietor businesses or partnerships (but apparently would like most people to think their expenses are greater than other comparable businesses).
Other incidental permit fees may be referenced by viewing the List of Permit Fees.
- $100: License Fee for applicants who file for a new Horse Drawn Cab Owner License from April 1 of years that end in an even number to September 30 of years that end in an even number.
- $75: License Fee for applicants who file for a new Horse Drawn Cab Owner License from October 1 of years that end in an even number to March 31 of years that end in an odd number.
- $50: License Fee for applicants who file for a Horse Drawn Cab Owner License from April 1 of years that end in an odd number to September 30 of years that end in an odd number.
- $25: License Fee for applicants who file for a new Horse Drawn Cab Owner License from October 1 of years that end in an odd number to March 31 of years that end in an even number.
- 2.49% of credit card payment amount: Non-Refundable Convenience Fee for paying with a credit card
- $100: License Renewal Fee
Some carriage operators have benefited by subsidized rents as well. In 2001, the City of New York leased a stable on W. 45th St. to a carriage operator and his partner charging him a rent of only $5,000 a month while a comparable stable could easily have brought the City $60,000 a month. Even if you consider that the city played a role in displacing the original tenants of this stable, this is a very advantageous cost savings for the carriage operators, but not so much for the City.
“Central Park as a rare car free oasis….”
I wonder what tourist brochures the author is looking at? Cars are allowed in Central Park at certain times. I daresay this writer hasn’t been to New York City (the hue and cry of the carriage supporters, many of whom haven’t been there either). Not only is the park not vehicle-free, the route to and from the stables is teeming with cars, taxis, snow removal vehicles, buses, and emergency vehicles.
“Despite AR rhetoric to the contrary, these owners love their horses and dread the thought of surrendering them to a city-appointed agency for adoption. “
There is no requirement to surrender any horses to anyone. I may be wrong but I’ve never heard of a “city-appointed agency” that has been established for surrendered carriage horses. Making it so that you cannot operate a carriage in NYC is not seizing your property. The Bill does not require that horses be sold or donated, but the Bill does define the circumstances under which sale or disposal or the horse shall be deemed humane. While it does attempt to control what happens to the horses IF they are sold, it does not compel them to be sold. And since one supporter’s comment included here asserts that the carriage operators have farms, one can only wonder, if true, why they would need to rehome any horse anywhere else?
“New Yorkers, long accustomed to the horses, are horrified by the possibility of losing their only direct contact with this beloved species. “
Perhaps, or perhaps not. Don’t forget that, for more than a year, until a week to 10 days before the mayoral primary, the same Quinnipiac polling had a certain former City Council speaker as a “sure thing.”
The “right” of the carriage horse operators to use any city streets is one that can be revoked. The carriage owners and drivers, who enjoy one of the last cash businesses in the city, need to wake up and smell the road apples. Stop lies, see truth indeed…
“It is the certainty that they possess the truth that makes men cruel.” ― Anatole France