Editorial: And so it begins

This wouldn’t be the first time we’ve devoted this column space to the ever-divisive debate on squirrel feeding, but since the rules have just been changed in a big way it seems like an appropriate time to weigh in again.

Firstly we would like to recognize the Parks Department and the management of Stuyvesant Town for waiting until the warmer months to implement a wildlife feeding ban when at least it is easier for squirrels and birds to tap into their natural food sources. After all, Squirrel Appreciation Day on January 21 came about because an advocate for the critters felt they had a tougher time finding food on their own in the dead of winter.

The conclusions are mixed even among experts on whether squirrel and bird feeding is helpful or harmful in the long run. And we understand the arguments for a ban as well as for human supplementing of urban animals’ sustenance, too.

Our view on the bans is that they should at least be given a chance to accomplish their goals. In the case of parks, to discourage the proliferation of rats and in the case of Stuy Town and Peter Cooper to truly to end the pattern of aggressive begging that has led to a few children getting bitten or scratched (though we doubt intentionally) by squirrels looking for a meal. As for whether these animals can be expected to break this habit after many decades of domestication we… well we truly don’t know. And we won’t know until we at least give them a chance to remember it’s their instinct to climb trees and collect nuts, not climb through strollers and garbage cans and collect leftover McDonald’s.

Nature is a powerful thing and the squirrels may surprise us by just how little they need our well-intentioned interference. And perhaps never did.

That said, if it seems the squirrel population is suffering after a while from the lack of human help then we reserve the right to revert to our previous view on this issue. That view is that if it seems necessary to feed them then they should be fed, but only in a responsible way.

This means offering nuts and berries, things that are healthy for the wildlife, not bread or other foods that while squirrels and birds might seem grateful to get at the time are actually bad for them. This also means no hand feeding to avoid accidental bites or scratches. And no tossing food and walking away, leaving a mess for someone else to clean or for a rat to enjoy. Any uneaten food should be picked up by the feeder.

That said, we really don’t want to see Parks enforcement Patrol officers or Stuy Town Public Safety Officers issuing summonses to seniors for feeding the wildlife either. What a waste of energy for all involved when there are far more pressing safety and quality of life matters to focus on.

We also hope the city and Stuy Town understand that this would probably be a good time to plant more nut bearing trees.

Food for thought.

* * *

As for that other probably far more major issue this week, congestion pricing, we will wait to comment until it’s been decided how Manhattanites living in the congestion zone will be impacted, since the Devil is always in the details. And those have yet to be determined.

13 thoughts on “Editorial: And so it begins

  1. This is just silly and unenforceable. PCVST Security will NOT be “issuing summonses” as they have no legal right to do so. I’d imagine a Parks Dept officer could write up a violation, in a park, but I’d bet few if any of those will.

  2. Throwing a few nuts to the squirrels is not what brings in rats. It’s the filthy two-legged slobs who dump their McDonalds and other foodstuffs all over the place who do that.

  3. So true. If people weren’t such slobs, there would be fewer rats in this city. Stopping people from feeding the wild life (with proper food) is stupid. As a life-long New Yorker, I’ve never been attacked by a squirrel. I was approached by several squirrels this week looking for food and when I indicated I had none, they just walked off. Humans are more dangerous than any animal on this planet. Animals aren’t ruining this planet — we are.

    • agreed!!! and the Mayor just publicly supports the ban on feeding birds and squirrels in parks. Just heartless and unjustifiable.

  4. The Mayor just came out publically in support of the ban on feeding birds and squirrels in All of parks. Again, the disingenuous reason he states is rats. Then why not ban all the street vendors and all the concession stands and restaurants in the parks that produce garbage. The rats will always be nearby restaurants because of the GARBAGE. The overfilled open trash bin cans left overnight for days is an open buffet for rats. IT is not the seeds or nuts or even bread that are EATEN up by the hungry birds and squirrels in the daylight.

    And if the Mayor cares about parks being cleaned then why does the city only fund the parks barely over half of one percent of the entire city budget?? Also, to target the kind people who not only care for this birds and squirrels but rescue them when they are injured. The underfunding of parks and callousness has put undue burden on kind people what took it upon themselves to help these birds and squirrels that PARKS refuses to do so.

    In fact, the parks especially the “privately managed” ones have landscaped them wildlife out with rat poison, planting nonnative trees and ornamental plants that bear no fruits or seeds. Look at Bryant park, there is not ONE squirrel in Bryant Park.

    So, you can shoot up heroin in the parks but you can’t feed a squirrel or bird. Is that progressiveness???

    Please help us with the campaign to stop this cruel and unjust rule.

    Bronx Animal Rights Electors

  5. It’s unfortunate that the media (including your Editors) and some New Yorkers are buying into the slop that the Mayor and Parks Department is dishing out.
    This issue is not about rats or garbage.
    It’s about pushing wildlife out of city parks in order to turn them into sports and entertainment venues.
    No food sources, no animals. Period.

    • If only the rodents could muster up a sizeable campaign contribution, I’m sure “Mr. President” would back off.

  6. People have killed by speeding bikes in Central Park. (Bono was injured by one.) Drugs, muggings, Jackie Onassis Reservoir as trash dump.
    None of it matters.
    What matters is some old woman feeding a squirrel or a child feeding ducks.
    The irony of it all……

  7. “So, you can shoot up heroin in the parks but you can’t feed a squirrel or bird. Is that progressiveness???”

    Yes. Yes, it is.

  8. Though the primary danger of the ban on feeding is starvation, there are also other dangers. Not only will the mean-spiritedness the ban promotes be likely to spread if a fine is threatened for people who feed animals in parks–often elderly or otherwise vulnerable people–the ban will almost certainly enable the harassment that often occurs around such feeding. There is much anti-animal sentiment among New Yorkers grounded largely in misinformation–and many of us who feed birds or squirrels have already been targets of violence. Though some may now be frightened into not feeding those creatures, most of us will not be–and the risks now will be greater. What happened to the Mayor’s “Wildlife NYC” campaign claiming to promote coexistence with wildlife? Starvation is not coexistence. And neither is violence.

  9. The Mayor is a jackass and and a total jerk. It is laughable that he should consider himself a viable candidate for President. He is destroying life in New York because he is in bed with all the developers and doesn’t really give a damn about people or wildlife.

    • Maybe not a total jerk. He’s done right by RS tenants with his RGB appointees. Or would you prefer we go back to Bloomberg’s 8% annual increases?

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