Fur Coats

Andrew Jansen/News-Leader

Fur Industry, 100 Pastors Push Back Against Proposed Ban In New York City

May 13, 2019 - 3:26 pm
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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — A group of 100 pastors have joined the fur industry in pushing back against City Council Speaker Corey Johnson proposed ban on new fur sales in New York City.

“We’re talking about 150 companies that employ about 1,500 people. They have sales of about $400 million and they all say that if this bill that passes, which will ban the sale of fur in New York City, they’re all either going out of business or moving someplace else,” explained Crain’s Greg David.

The bill would prohibit business from selling any type of fur apparel and would fine companies that break the rule $500 for the first violation and $1,500 for each additional violation.

Already, the legislation has gained the support of Mayor Bill de Blasio, who says he’s sympathetic towards the business but made it clear that he isn’t a fan of fur apparel.

“I am humanly sympathetic to folks in that industry, cause it is a lot of jobs,” de Blasio said. “And once upon a time, my family was in the garment industry.”

However, Rev. Dr. Johnnie M. Green, Jr. says the fur industry is an important part of African American tradition, history and experience.

“Fur has given black people standing, fortitude and strength in the face of bigotry, injustice and intolerance throughout history,” the pastor said in a statement. “In today’s churches many women and some men wear fur. Many do not. It is their choice whether to wear fur, as it should be.”

He tells WCBS 880’s Steve Scott that fur has long been a mark of economic status in the black community, dating as far back to the Harlem Renaissance.

“When you study black culture during the Harlem Renaissance, you’ll recall that African Americans who had worked hard to archive the American dream, those who had come to New York City and successfully obtained education, opened businesses and worked to a point where they were able to purchase homes, etcetera – buying a mink coat was a sign of status,” Green said. “It was a sign of achievement and it also sent a message that you could rise from poverty.”

In a statement, he said he finds it troubling that government leaders would attempt to deny the rights of citizens to buy fur in New York City while residents in wealthier areas of the state, including Westchester and Long Island, would still be able to enjoy that right.

RELATED: Mayor Supports Legislation Banning Fur Sales In New York City

Additionally, Crain’s David notes that the majority of people who operate the fur business in New York City have had their businesses passed down to them and many have been around for several generations.

“I went to a factory on 29th Street and there were about 20 people working there, they make anywhere from 35 to a 120 thousand dollars, and, you know, they were on the older side, they weren't young people,” David said. “I think that's important for a second reason, and that is the proponents of this bill say ‘oh, the 1,500 workers or whatever will easily get jobs somewhere else.’ Well, I'm not sure the people I saw will easily get jobs somewhere else.”

While many, including Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Johnson, claim that the fur industry is cruel business and harmful to animals, industry workers disagree.

“They say that there fur is much more environmentally friendly than faux fur, which doesn’t degrade and doesn’t last as long,” David said.

He also notes that Speaker Johnson represents the very district where these businesses are located. According to David, there are 30 fur companies in the 30th Street building where Johnson maintains a district office.

Currently, the bill has about 10 sponsors but it faces a number of issues, including a push in the City Council to provide an exemption for the fur hats that Orthodox Jewish residents often wear.