Movie Star and Horse Lover
Teamster horse-carriage drivers in New York City are fighting for their livelihoods—with a lot of help from screen actor Liam Neeson.
The battle began when mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio made a campaign pledge to ban the iconic horse carriages from Central Park. Once elected in November 2013, he announced his top priority as new mayor was to replace the horse carriages with reproduction antique electric cars.
Mayor de Blasio had received considerable support from an animal rights group backed by a real estate developer who had stated his interest in developing the land now occupied by the carriage horse stables.
The carriage drivers, members of Local 553, launched a spirited campaign defending the jobs and the animals they love. They invited the mayor to tour the stables to see how well cared for they are. They emphasized the horses get more vacation than most people—five weeks at a rural horse farm. They reminded the public their industry is well-regulated and closely scrutinized.
New York’s newspapers sided with the Teamster horse-carriage drivers. So did Liam Neeson, a longtime resident of New York City, a horse lover and a friend to some of the drivers.
On March 9, Neeson hosted about a dozen City Councilmembers on a tour of the Clinton Park Stables. “This is an industry that’s been here since before Abraham Lincoln’s first inauguration,” he said. “A beautiful industry it is. It’s a connection with our past.”
Several polls show the public strongly supports horse carriages and their drivers. Mayor de Blasio has backed off his pledge under the pressure of public opinion, the tireless efforts of the Teamster horse-carriage drivers and the star power of Liam Neeson.