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City Council war on fur is a war on small biz

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and his colleagues are trying to put my family’s 60-year-old fur company out of business — and our 150 workers out of their jobs.

The speaker has introduced legislation to ban the sale and manufacture of fur, one of New York’s oldest industries and one that still provides hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue to the Big Apple, through good times and bad.

Johnson has argued that “saying no to fur is fashionable and a symbol of progress. This proposal is about protecting animals.” But what about protecting New Yorkers and their livelihoods? This ban would uproot a venerable industry and create rippling negative economic effects, to which Johnson appears to be oblivious.

I’m 32 years old and a fourth-generation furrier. My great-grandfather came from Poland in 1938, fought in World War II, then came home and started a small fur-trading business in the Garment District. This business became a family enterprise that passed from my great grandfather to my grandfather, from my grandfather to my uncle and aunt and from my aunt to me.

Today, we are a thriving manufacturer and retailer, working with a diverse array of designers and brands and selling a kaleidoscopic collection of products from scarves, sandals and key chains to hair ties, denim jackets and home accessories. I’m proud of my trade and where the next generation is taking this industry.

According to the Fur Information Council of America, there are more than 130 fur businesses in New York City, providing more than 1,000 direct jobs. We serve a growing and diverse base of customers, who come from across the five boroughs, the state, the country — and the world.

The council’s legislation would bar all of these businesses from operating in New York. If Johnson cares about what his ideas would mean to the lives of real people, he doesn’t show it.

It would be unprecedented for the City Council to just erase jobs and an entire industry — a legal, sustainable and highly regulated industry at that — simply based on ideology. If the city is willing to ban fur, then other animal products like leather, wool, meat and dairy can’t be far behind. This is a slippery slope. Government shouldn’t be in our closets or our pantries. Council members claim they are just following other cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, which have also banned fur. But those towns don’t support the same job base as New York, where we have both retail and manufacturing.

Ban proponents also argue we no longer need real fur because fake fur is a great alternative. Yet fake fur is made from plastic materials and is part of the current trend of expendable fashion that sends 85 percent of all clothing to landfills. Real fur, by contrast, lasts decades and is recyclable and biodegradable. If the council is serious about helping the environment, promoting fake fur is not the way to go. In October, in support of legislation to control the rents on small businesses, the council speaker tweeted: “When we lose mom and pop shops, we lose a piece of New York City.”

Fur businesses are literally the mom and pop shops upon which New York was built. The beaver is our state animal, in honor of the fur trade that launched New York’s economy. Our industry may be old, but it is still vibrant.

Shutting down small businesses that are providing jobs and tax revenue is the opposite of progressive politics. This industry has sustained families for generations. Whether you choose to wear fur or not, most New Yorkers understand that good jobs should be protected.

Samantha Ortiz is president of ER Fur Trading.

Originally posted on April 04,2019 at

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