BY THE VILLAGE SUN | A group of local students aren’t horsing around when they say to ban horse carriage in New York City — and it sounds like they just might be making a difference.
Students from the Institute for Collaborative Education, a public middle school and high school in the East Village, launched a letter-writing campaign urging Councilmember Carlina Rivera and Speaker Adrienne Adams to ban horse carriages. They cited ongoing, documented horse cruelty, violent horse crashes and the criminal animal abuse case against Ian McKeever, owner of Ryder, an elderly, sick horse that collapsed and later died under McKeever’s care.
On Jan. 11, dozens of the students’ letters penned to Rivera were hand-delivered to her E. Fourth Street district office by Jaelee Krasnow-Osario, the competitive equestrian high schooler who started the campaign.
“Being an equestrian, I am fully knowledgeable on what proper horse care looks like,” Krasnow-Osario said. “It’s safe to say that the treatment of New York’s carriage horses is straight-out abuse. I started this letter campaign to get the attention of Councilmember Carlina Rivera, because my school is in her district, and Speaker Adrienne Adams, Mayor Eric Adams and the entire City Council to ask them to end the outdated cruelty of horse carriages and save many horses’ lives. Seeing the suffering of the carriage horses breaks my heart and I needed to do something about it, and so many other students in my school are excited about the campaign.”
The students’ effort is being supported by NYCLASS (New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets). A nonprofit founded in 2008, NYCLASS’s core mission is banning carriage horses, enacting animal-rights legislation and electing pro-animal candidates to office.
Edita Birnkrant, executive director of NYCLASS said, “I am so proud of Jaelee and all of the other students at her school who are putting their compassion into action with this letter-writing campaign, urging our elected officials to do the right thing and get the suffering horses off our streets for good. It’s 2024 — there are no longer any valid excuses for the City Council not to fast-track legislation to ban horse carriages. The criminal animal cruelty case against carriage industry leader and owner Ian McKeever continues, proving what we’ve said all along — the horse carriage owners and drivers routinely violate animal welfare laws and must be shut down swiftly. We hope that Councilmember Carlina Rivera, Speaker Adrienne Adams, the entire Council and Mayor Eric Adams will pay close attention to the message of Jaelee and her classmates. The kids and the world are watching. Let’s make 2024 a year to celebrate by banning horse carriage cruelty.”
NYCLASS notes that Rivera, in the past, has said she would back legislation to ban horse carriages, yet has never done so. But that could be changing.
In a statement to The Village Sun, Rivera said she supports the call of the students and NYCLASS.
“In the past, I have certainly expressed opposition to carriage horses in the city, but did not support the bill from last term that would also reintroduce electric vehicles into a mostly car-free Central Park,” she said. “Throughout my tenure, I have been endorsed by NYCLASS and Voters For Animal Rights and have proudly carried and passed historic animal-rights legislation.”
Rivera noted that the City Council banned cars from Central Park in 2018, and that she and some of her Council colleagues plan this term “to address animal care and cruelty in our city.”
Birnkrant said the Jan. 11 meeting “went incredibly well.” They met with Rivera’s legislative director, Eddie Amador, and another staffer.
“They were very excited to get the letters from Jaelee’s classmates and speak with Jaelee,” she said. “We discussed at length the cruelty and safety issues with the carriage horses, and they were in agreement with us that it needs to end and said that the councilmember agrees.
“We also got a promise that Councilmember Rivera will sign onto new legislation that will be just a ban of the horse carriages and that does not replace them with electric carriages. That will be the new bill this year. They told us that Carlina was against the electric carriage replacement angle of the past bill.
“We were excited to hear this promise, but we will not celebrate until we know for sure that Carlina Rivera has signed onto the bill,” Birnkrant noted. “There have been promises made by elected officials in the past that were not kept, but we are very hopeful that it will be different this year. … We will stay in close touch with Carlina’s office to see what the next steps are.
The NYCLASS leader said they are hoping that the amended bill will be introduced in the next few weeks.