Wildlife feeding bans coming soon to Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village and city parks

By this summer, there’ll be no such thing as a free lunch for squirrels and birds at city parks, even sooner in Stuyvesant Town Peter Cooper Village, at least not from a human benefactor. (Pictured) A squirrel noshes on a park goer’s leftovers at Madison Square Park. (Photo by Madison Square Park Conservancy)

By Sabina Mollot

Animal lovers who enjoy feeding the squirrels and birds in this city should do so quickly, because soon it won’t be allowed in the places where the aforementioned animals congregate.

As of April 1, it will be against the rules to feed the wildlife in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village. Additionally, the city’s mulling of a plan for a full wildlife feeding ban in parks has gained steam, with a spokesperson telling Town & Village it’s expected to go into place this summer.

As for the Stuy Town policy, this new rule comes after management conducted a resident survey on the subject (as well as dog-related policies for pet owners) last summer. Then, last Thursday, StuyTown Property Services made sure to remind tenants of the soon to come ban in its weekly e-blast, and the reason for it.

This was “due to several incidents involving resident children being bitten by squirrels.”

Asked how management intends to enforce the new policy, general manager Rick Hayduk told T&V that public safety officers will enforce it as they have been with rules relating to bikes or dogs.

“When caught, the offender will be further informed of the rule and if necessary, a notice of lease violation will be issued,” Hayduk said. “If found the offender is a non-resident, they will be escorted off the property.”

Feeding the birds and squirrels has been a Stuy Town tradition over the decades, though critics have argued this has made the critters aggressive to the point of rifling through strollers and garbage cans in their efforts to find a meal.

The city’s Parks Department has said the same, that squirrel feeding has contributed to aggressive behavior and an increase in rats. Last summer, the Madison Square Park Conservancy begged park goers to stop feeding the squirrels, saying it has led to over-breeding, which in turn damaged the park’s tree canopy due to the squirrels’ incessant gnawing.

Like in Stuy Town, Parks spokesperson Meghan Lalor that the first step in enacting the ban will be to try to remind park goers seen feeding the birds and squirrels that this is against the rules. Though not yet a done deal the ban is currently being reviewed by the city’s law department and is expected to be enacted, Lawlor said. At this time there is already a ban on feeding wildlife in parks though birds and squirrels have always been the exception.

Once it is officials, feeders could face a $50 summons. But, Lawlor said, “We only ticket when necessary.”

She added, “We think all New Yorkers should be healthy eaters, including our wildlife. But, food left on the ground is an open invitation for rodents to congregate for a free meal. This amendment will help to clarify the rules, and keep our parks safe and clean.”

Town & Village first reported on the proposed ban in January and on March 1, the Parks Department held a hearing on the subject. Since then the issue has picked up steam in the media due to the ban ruffling the feathers of fans of birds and squirrels. On Friday, the New York Post reported that a change.org petition against the ban has gotten over 4,500 signatures and that 30 people had attended a demonstration, while shouting, “Squirrels are New Yorkers too!”

One such advocate, squirrel feeder and rescuer Bernie Goetz, told T&V he was concerned about the future of the city’s squirrel population.

“The situation is dismal,” said Goetz. “Why not say, ‘Let’s not feed the homeless? There’ll be less homeless.’” He also dismissed the argument about attracting rats, saying the rodent problem shouldn’t, at least entirely, be blamed on wildlife feeders.

A squirrel in Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Goetz, who lives in Union Square, frequently visits the park as well as Stuy Town and Peter Cooper to feed and check on the squirrels. In his view, the critters need a helping human hand, especially in the winter.

Because, he explained, trees have been steadily getting thinned out in Union Square Park over the years as well as in Stuy Town, in the latter case for security reasons a decade ago.

“They need a thick forest for a natural food supply, nuts and berries,” said Goetz, of the squirrels. “Squirrels were here when people came here and built a city around them and people have eliminated the food supply. So if you want to have the squirrels in the city, people should fill the void.”

Meanwhile, in upstate New York, wildlife feeding has also had unintended consequences. On Monday, the Department of Environmental Conservation implored residents to take down bird feeders as they’ve been attracting black bears.

“DEC has already received several reports that bears are knocking down bird feeders to eat the seed,” the department said in an official statement. “Feeding bears either intentionally, which is illegal, or unintentionally through careless practices around properties, has consequences for entire communities. People should take down bird feeders by April 1, store garbage inside secure buildings, and feed pets indoors.”

11 thoughts on “Wildlife feeding bans coming soon to Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village and city parks

  1. I think the speeding bikes and management’s golf carts, as well as the scooters and skate boards, present a bigger threat to the wellbeing of small children than the squirrels ever have done or ever will do.

    • Management doesn’t care about golf carts. They’ve proven that. Stuy Town is theirs, and PS and the TA follow orders…. And this “management conducted a resident survey on the subject” is typical Management BS.

      • Golf carts are frequently driven on the public sidewalks and service roads surrounding PCVST. This is blatantly illegal. On private property, you can do what you want, but sidewalks and roadways are public property.

        Why is it the 13th pct is proudly confiscating e-bikes, but looking the other way while electric powered 4-wheelers are being driven on our sidewalks?

  2. The squirrel in the photograph is in more danger of being harmed by the human slob who threw food and a plastic fork to the ground than anybody tossing it a nut.

  3. shame bc of these heartless monsters, you can’t feed a squirrel inside or outside a park. shameful. the mass killing of squirrels and pigeons with this starvation campaign. Let them eat garbage or die is now the city’s attitude towards our pigeons and squirrels.

  4. Yeah, while we’re at it let’s kill all the “dangerous” squirrels and pooping birds, and defoliate the parks of trees in case a limb falls on someone’s head. A nice, sterile wasteland.

  5. Notice of Lease Violation? Don’t recall seeing anything in MY lease about squirrels or pigeons.

    And if one continues with such “violations”, what’s the outcome? Could you imagine a landlord Going to Housing Court, trying to evict a tenant because they toss peanuts to the squirrels?

  6. Management despises life in all its forms unless it’s making them money. This place is becoming a monument to greed and indifference to anything that doesn’t appeal to their avarice. It gets less and less attractive and life-sustaining all the time.
    Reflects the hearts and souls of management and their owner.

  7. It should be noted that the “house rules” do not have any legal effect. The relationship between tenants and management is governed by the leases, including the rent stabilization laws. Management cannot legally harass tenants for feeding a pigeon or a squirrel. It will be interesting to see management attempt to make the case for its “rules” in State Supreme Court. This would be an opportunity for a state court judge to invalidate the entire set of “rules.”

  8. Why should we (or Management) worry about planting (nut) trees to feed the squirrels? Why not let the critters fend for themselves? Isn’t it hard enough to have to cater to people and dogs – do we have to add rodents to the list now? And didn’t Stuytown/Met Life add the trees and greenery first? Then the squirrels came. They didn’t knock down any forests to build this community. Gas tanks and tenements perhaps, but they weren’t too green to begin with.

  9. Pingback: Protesters slam squirrel feeding ban | Town & Village

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