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Tim Gunn Denounces Homophobic Drivers, Carriage Trade in Letter to NYC Mayor De Blasio: VIDEO


Towleroad has obtained a letter sent by Project Runway fashion guru and animal rights activist Tim Gunn to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio urging him to crack down on hate speech by NYC carriage drivers and citing a May 23 incident captured on video in which a driver called a passerby concerned about horse welfare a "faggot" several times. Gunn notes that it's not the first time a driver has been recorded using homophobic behavior. You can watch the video, AFTER THE JUMP...

GunnGunn uses the letter to also urge de Blasio to get the horses off the streets.

The letter below was also copied to the City Council's gay caucus and also references a July 2012 incident in which one of the drivers verbally assaulted a group of women leafleting near the carriages, calling them a "f--king dyke convention":

The Honorable Bill de Blasio Mayor of New York City

Dear Mayor de Blasio:

I'm among the 30,000 New York City PETA members who applaud your plan to retire the carriage horses. However, as we await a City Council bill, I urge you to address the relentless, hateful bigotry that's thriving in the city's tiny horse-drawn carriage trade. Carriage drivers have been filmed spewing all kinds of racist, sexist, and homophobic taunts at caring tourists and local citizens who dare to express concern for the 200 horses who are forced to lug carriages on our city's dangerous streets.

As NYC Pride approaches, I ask you to watch this video, taken just last month, showing the latest anti-gay tirade from a carriage driver. It happened on May 23, when driver Omer Biyikoglu called a concerned passerby a "faggot," among other antagonistic slurs, when questioned about whether it was legal to tie his horse to a light post in the midst of midtown traffic. Instead of answering the question, the smirking driver declared, "I don't f-ck guys," and walked away.

This isn't the first time such a disgraceful exchange has taken place on our streets. During 2012 Pride, another carriage driver called a concerned, elderly, mixed-race lesbian couple "ni**er" and "dyke." (You can view the video footage here.) And it's not just the drivers: Stable owner Frank Rodden was caught on tape calling a Latina woman a "whore" in Spanish and joking to his cronies—in front of the public—that she "probably has six or seven kids." The woman had simply asked if his horse was OK.

Mayor de Blasio, it would be unacceptable for any worker representing the city to taunt the public with hate speech—but these individuals are on the frontlines of the city's hospitality industry! Are these the type of people we want greeting families and tourists from around the world? I'm proud to live in Manhattan, it can be a haven of tolerance, but the carriage drivers are warping it into a hotbed of hate. Bullies such as the drivers in these videos disregard not only the suffering of animals but also the basic rights of New Yorkers.

You have spoken so lucidly on this issue since before your election, but since you took office, there have been accidents causing continued animal suffering and threatening public safety. One driver falsified department of health records in order to force an old asthmatic horse to work, and another was arrested for making a horse pound the pavement despite a painful hoof infection. As the steamy summer months set in, when can we expect you to get these abused horses off the streets?

I eagerly await your reply.

Kind regards, Tim Gunn

Watch the clip of the carriage driver using homophobic slurs, AFTER THE JUMP...

UPDATE: George Miranda, President of Teamsters Joint Council 16, which represents workers in the horse carriage industry, released a statement in response to the video:

“The comments made by a carriage driver in the video circulated by PETA today are insensitive and wrong. They do not represent the views of the people who work in the industry.

“The Teamsters celebrate the diversity of our union and of our city. We are proud that many of our members are part of the LGBTQ community, including carriage drivers. The union is there to fight discrimination at work and in society.

“The Teamsters do not tolerate racist, sexist, or homophobic language from members. We also will not tolerate the continued harassment from protesters. Carriage drivers work in public and have been subject to a relentless barrage of harassment from protesters at their workplace. And despite these constant provocations, inappropriate responses are rare.”

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  1. Hear, hear Mr. Gunn!

    This is an issue that should have been addressed YEARS ago!

    Posted by: TampaZeke | Jun 23, 2014 8:41:00 AM

  2. While repulsive...typical for taxi drivers in NYC, carriage, car or otherwise.

    I have heard the most hateful speech from "non-white" but "not-black" taxi drivers (central american, middle eastern, south asian)... anti-black, anti-gay, misogynistic.

    Posted by: Qj201 | Jun 23, 2014 8:56:14 AM

  3. These guys are the worst of the worst. My heart breaks for these absurd animals. It's awful, what we condone.

    Posted by: David | Jun 23, 2014 9:02:40 AM

  4. I'm not taking the complaint seriously. It's just cross-pollination of causes. "Let's see if we can get more traction by accusing livery drivers of homophobia!" Would they be taking taxis off the streets if you heard cabbies making homophobic/racist/misogynistic remarks? Or would they be removing bicycles if the pedicab drivers insulted their passengers? Of course not--you remove the drivers, not the industry.

    On the other hand, I'm pretty much in agreement that it's time to retire/replace the livery carriages. But when you go attacking these people's livelihoods, do you really expect a polite "Thank you, have a nice day!"?

    This is the fakest of fake outrage.

    Posted by: Whoa, Nellie! | Jun 23, 2014 9:04:04 AM

  5. Bravo, Tim Gunn!

    Posted by: NotSafeForWork | Jun 23, 2014 9:25:17 AM

  6. The animal rights activists should be able to compromise on the horses, with perhaps a system of spot checking enforcement by the city animal welfare bureau (who've been dropping the ball for years on this issue), rather than a wholesale ban because the animals are fine when on duty. It's the off duty life that stinks.

    Posted by: anon | Jun 23, 2014 11:31:36 AM

  7. Before too many years, taxis will drive themselves autonomously, and we'll be rid of these obnoxious taxi drivers forever.

    Posted by: Merv | Jun 23, 2014 12:53:06 PM

  8. I have been called an "ugly lesbian" and (other not so nice names that I will not even put in print) when I have asked the drivers about the treatment of their horses. These drivers have NO CLASS, no morals and can barely formulate a proper sentence. So glad this industry is coming to its END.

    Posted by: tracy | Jun 23, 2014 1:00:55 PM

  9. I find the city noise to be obnoxious and nerve wracking. I can only imagine that it's worse for an animal which doesn't understand it.

    Posted by: Enchantra | Jun 23, 2014 1:23:00 PM

  10. Not my city so NYC can do as it pleases, no matter how absurd I think all of this is. If PETA is for something that usually makes me suspicious anyways.

    Posted by: JohnAGJ | Jun 23, 2014 2:04:51 PM

  11. Enchantra: Really? Horses have been domesticated and used by humans for around 5,000-6,000 years. This includes many different environments, from rural to urban. They've been used for transportation, as work animals, for food and even in war. Yet somehow only now the poor dears are unable to cope with the sights and sounds of city life? Again, NYC can do as it pleases but don't expect others to take such nonsensical reasoning seriously.

    Posted by: JohnAGJ | Jun 23, 2014 2:11:45 PM

  12. I feel like while the anti-horse carriage activists have effectively highlighted individual cases of abuse and/or boorish behavior by drivers, they have not made a convincing case why the practice is inherently abusive. Seems they've made a strong case for tighter regulation and better enforcement, but not banning it. Maybe I just haven't paid close enough attention though.

    Posted by: Glenn | Jun 23, 2014 3:05:47 PM

  13. Typical carriage drivers

    Posted by: stophate | Jun 23, 2014 6:31:47 PM

  14. No big surprise here. These drivers have spew racists, homophobic and misogynist slurs at activists or anyone concern about these horses. What do you expect from animal abusers? yes it is abuse when they force these horses daily in traffic all over the city including TImes Square. It is abuse when these drivers blatantly ignore the welfare of the horses for their own financial interest. THis industry offers nothing to this city. Tourists do not fly to NYC for a carriage ride. This industry, unlike any other business, pays NO taxes or fees to the city. unlike the vending cart guy, this industry pays nothing to operate freely in this city. Yet we pay to clean up the mess they leave behind including the traffic accidents. Even victims have to pay for the ambulance ride to the hospital yet this industry pays NOTHING. This industry ignores humane laws, labor laws and traffic laws. Because they are not under the dept of transportation, the drivers were exempt from driver license requirement. They blatantly run lights and make u-turn with no accountability. They double shift the horses, they make the horses work even if horse is sick, they over load the carriage above the maximum limit, etc. The owners hire workers as consultants and avoid labor taxes and any labor laws. How can they be a real union when the owners are in the union and there is no collective bargaining. Why city council does NOTHING and yet protects this fraudulent corrupt industry? WHy city council did not protect honest businesses upheaved by stadiums, gentrification, technology, redevelopment? Why is this corrupt small industry given a free pass? Shame on the city council.

    Posted by: Jeanie | Jun 23, 2014 6:46:06 PM

  15. SO why MR. MIRANDA doesn't fire this homophobic D@@K? Because the industry is full of homophobic, it isn't an isolated case. END THIS CRUEL, it is CRUEL TO ME to SEE THEIR UGLY FACES ON OUR STREETS.

    Posted by: TOPHOMOPHOBIA | Jun 23, 2014 7:16:57 PM


    Posted by: TOPHOMOPHOBIA | Jun 23, 2014 7:18:03 PM

  17. I'm curious, though: Why would anyone ask these drivers how the horses are treated? Do they really expect an honest answer?

    Of course not. The question is meant to provoke and make a point. Doesn't justify the response, but let's not be disingenuous here.

    Posted by: James | Jun 24, 2014 2:27:10 PM

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