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...
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.”