David Barton sweats Quinn on carriage horses - NYCLASS.org

David Barton sweats Quinn on carriage horses

David Barton, the eccentric gym mogul whose fitness clubs are known for their outlandish nightclub atmosphere, is jumping on the horsewagon.

AUGUST 16, 2013 2:26 P.M.

Updated: August 16, 2013 3:21 p.m.

David Barton, the eccentric gym mogul whose fitness clubs are known for their outlandish nightclub atmosphere, is jumping on the horsewagon.

In a colorful letter sent to the City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Mr. Barton said he was "shocked" after watching Ms. Quinn's recent interview on MSNBC's Morning Joe in which her opposition to a bill that would phase out carriage horse industry came up.

"I'm shocked that you can't recognize the cramped working and living conditions and painful lack of exercise afforded the city's most bedraggled residents: the 220 horses used to lug carriages," Mr. Barton writes.

He goes on to illustrate the plight of carriage horses in way that only a fitness guru and former body builder really can:

"Pulling heavy carriages is strenuous work, but it doesn't allow the horses a chance to gallop freely as nature intended," he writes. "They don't get to run in a pasture or stretch out their aching muscles. And to make matters worse, at night, these huge noble creatures are kept in stalls so small that they can't even fully extend their legs after navigating through loud, crazy traffic all day."

Mr. Barton owns six fitness centers in New York, Miami Beach, Chicago and elsewhere that he estimates have grossed over $231 million since 1991. He is also a member of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (or PETA), which forwarded his letter to The Insider. Other anti-carriage groups are engaged in a smear campaign against Quinn in hopes of installing a mayor who will put the carriage horse industry out of business. Democratic mayoral candidates Bill de Blasio, Bill Thompson and John Liu support a ban on the industry.

Controversy over the carriage horse industry has dogged Ms. Quinn's candidacy for mayor since Day One. Two affiliated groups, NY CLASS and New York Not for Sale, have spent millions on a host of advertisements and websites bashing Ms. Quinn's stance on the issue.

For her part, Ms. Quinn has passed laws that increase funding to animal care, advocated for strict "no kill" policies at shelters and vehemently rejects the criticism that she "hates animals."

Laws already tightly govern the industry. For example, the horses get a minimum of five weeks' vacation every year. Many are shipped off to fields in Pennsylvania for leisure, often for three months at a time.

View this slideshow  to get a view of the horses and their living conditions.

Some basics about the industry:

• There are 220 horses registered to draw carriages in the city.

• A 20-minute ride costs $50, or $130 for an hour. The price is capped.

• The rent per stall that owners pay at the stables on the far West Side is $1,300.

• Horses can work a maximum of nine hours a day. They must stop when it gets above 89 degrees or below 18.

Here is Mr. Barton's full letter:

Dear Speaker Quinn:

I live in your district and own gyms throughout the city. I'm sure we agree that Manhattan's tight spaces make exercise crucial in order for New Yorkers to lead a healthy lifestyle. Only a dumbbell would differ. But after seeing you on Thursday's Morning Joe, I'm shocked that you can't recognize the cramped working and living conditions and painful lack of exercise afforded the city's most bedraggled residents: the 220 horses used to lug carriages. Pulling heavy carriages is strenuous work, but it doesn't allow the horses a chance to gallop freely as nature intended. They don't get to run in a pasture or stretch out their aching muscles. And to make matters worse, at night, these huge noble creatures are kept in stalls so small that they can't even fully extend their legs after navigating through loud, crazy traffic all day. Speaker Quinn, these horses are your neighbors, and your inaction on the current bill condemns them to languish in stalls full of feces and mud and hardly any bedding. Check out these recent pictures from the West Side Livery stable—they make even the tiniest Hell's Kitchen studio look luxurious. My gyms have several thousand members. Many are your gay constituents, and many, like me, are PETA members. I'm now urging them not just to keep fit but also to pump up the pressure on you to join the majority of the City Council, which wants to retire the horses. Intro. 86A calls for phasing out the horses in favor of eco-friendly classic cars and won't cost a single job.

Sincerely,

David Barton

Correction: PETA is not involved in the ongoing smear campaign against City Council Speaker Christine Quinn over her stance on carriage horses. That fact was misstated in an earlier version of this article, published Aug. 16, 2013.

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