Kitten rescued from postal truck engine is still under observation

Melanie, a kitten rescued from a truck parked in Gramercy (Photo by Marilyn Pascarelli)

By Sabina Mollot

Melanie, the mostly blind kitten rescued from the engine of a postal truck last month, is still waiting for her forever home.

Holly Staver, a founding member of rescue organization City Critters, noted that the adorable black and white longhair kitten came close to getting adopted by a Stuy Town resident who wound up not being able to take her for some reason.

Meanwhile, Staver said Melanie may need further observation and specialized veterinary care as her reactions to some cats and other stimuli “are a bit dramatic.” This isn’t due to her limited vision, which hasn’t been a problem as she seems to gets around without problems.

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NYPD MEW: Cops rescue kitten stuck inside truck engine

HEEEEERE, KITTY, KITTY, KITTY–Around a dozen cops were called to the scene where an adorable kitten (pictured) was stuck inside a postal truck parked in Gramercy. (Photo by Marilyn Pascarelli)

By Sabina Mollot

There was no time for kitten around last Wednesday afternoon when police were alerted that a stray feline had somehow ended up in the engine of a postal truck parked in Gramercy.

The kitten, which may have been seeking a warm place to hide from the wind, was seen inside the truck on the southwest corner of Second Avenue and 19th Street by a woman who was walking by. She alerted Ted Weiner, veterinarian and owner of the nearby Gotham Animal Clinic, who then ran to the 13th Precinct on East 21st Street between Second and Third Avenues for help. Fortunately, Weiner later told us, a police officer he spotted outside immediately went with him to the scene to help.

“He came right away, no second thoughts,” said Weiner. “Apparently he was an animal lover.”

Eventually, about a dozen cops from the precinct and Emergency Service Unit responded, with each attempting to follow the kitten’s helpless cries to figure out where in the truck she was.

“They were under the truck, they were all over the place,” Weiner said.

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Editorial: Squirrels: To feed or not to feed?

We definitely don’t recommend doing this. (Illustration by Sabina Mollot)

We definitely don’t recommend doing this. (Illustration by Sabina Mollot)

In mid-July, Town & Village published a story detailing recent complaints made by three parents on a neighborhood Facebook group, claiming that their children had been bitten by squirrels in Stuyvesant Town. While the squirrels in the complex are known for being overly-friendly, this was the first time we’d heard of a child getting bitten by one, let alone three. So we asked around for more opinions, which, as usual, were mixed, though most people we interviewed seemed to agree the resident squirrels were aggressive in their begging habits.

Well, as anyone who reads this paper knows, that coverage didn’t go over too well with the community’s squirrel lovers, who interpreted the parents’ concern as hatred toward the fluffy tailed critters in letters we published. In addition, this newspaper was blasted as being irresponsible. “Malicious,” “slander” and “perverse” were some of the words used to describe the article, written by Town & Village editor Sabina Mollot. Our publisher, Chris Hagedorn, even got a call from a woman who threatened to boycott every business that advertises within our pages for our treatment of the local Eastern Grey population.

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A bird malnourished in Stuy Town? It happens thanks to feeders: rescuer

Animal rescuer and rehabilitator Marilyn Pascarelli recently found a pigeon who became ill from being fed bread.

Animal rescuer and rehabilitator Marilyn Pascarelli recently found a pigeon who became ill from being fed bread.

By Sabina Mollot

Take a look at any of the squirrels in Stuyvesant Town or Peter Cooper Village and it is clear that both complexes are home to the most well-fed squirrel population on the planet. The fact that ST/PCV is also a known bird sanctuary is also evidence of just how many residents enjoy feeding the various types of birds, too.

However, one Stuyvesant Town resident and animal rescuer and rehabilitator is hoping to change this practice by warning neighbors that they be doing their feathered friends more harm than good by feeding them. Or more specifically, by feeding them bread.

Marilyn Pascarelli, a volunteer with City Critters who’s also the neighborhood’s go-to gal for retrieving runaway pets and wounded strays, was recently contacted about a baby pigeon found in Stuy Town that was unable to fly. It was also barely able to walk, witnesses noticed, as it attempted to wobble along on a sidewalk near 277 Avenue C.

“He wasn’t sure what he was doing or where he was going,” she said.

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ST pooch and owner are lost pet search/rescue duo

Marilyn Pascarelli of City Critters with her rescued dog Bella, who also assists in other rescues (Photo courtesy of Marilyn Pascarelli)

Marilyn Pascarelli of City Critters with her rescued dog Bella, who also assists in other rescues (Photo courtesy of Marilyn Pascarelli)

By Sabina Mollot

For over 20 years, Marilyn Pascarelli has been the go-to person in Stuyvesant Town when someone’s cat has gotten out and needs to be brought home or when an animal has been abandoned by its owner or pretty much any other animal-related emergency.

One recent task included rescuing and placing a kitten that had been left locked in a closet in Stuy Town after its owners, a group of squatters, abandoned their apartment prior to a marshal visit. Another time, Pascarelli rescued two baby squirrels whose mother had died, nursing them back to health. Other rescues include dogs, turtles, a rooster and even the occasional bunny.

A couple of years she ago rescued a shih tzu mix, Bella, who would later become her pet, from a breeding ring in the Bronx. Bella had been found in squalid conditions among a group of 18 shih tzus.

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About that kitten abandoned in a Stuy Town closet

Stevie is doing well in a new home in Stuyvesant Town. (Photo by Marilyn Pascarelli)

Stevie is doing well in a new home in Stuyvesant Town. (Photo by Marilyn Pascarelli)

By Sabina Mollot

Last month, Town & Village ran a story about a mom in Peter Cooper Village who spent nearly a year in an apartment made unlivable by a group of around 15 squatters who lived directly above her family. Along with being a noisy, rowdy and vindictive lot, the upstairs neighbors were also cruel, abandoning their pet kitten in a locked closet. As T&V also noted at the time, the now nine-month-old calico has since been placed in a new home.

This week, we chatted with popular Stuy Town pet sitter Linda Ayache, for whom the lucky feline, named Stevie, is a charge.

“She’s adjusting well,” said Ayache. “She’s in a loving home. She’s going to be fed all the time and taken care of. I’m thrilled.”

(Stevie is named after the singer Stevie Nicks, with the name having been given to her by her rescuer, Marilyn Pascarelli of City Critters.)

The kitten has also been given her shots, tested negative for various feline health conditions and has been fixed. Her owners, who live in Stuyvesant Town, are also friends of Ayache’s. She didn’t want their names published in case Stevie’s old owners are delusional enough to try and get her back.

After they were evicted, Pascarelli had suggested that management call the authorities about the abandonment, but the former residents, who skipped before the marshal came, couldn’t be reached. Their cell phones had been disconnected.

The family that has since adopted Stevie includes another cat, who’s male, “so she’s already making trouble for the boy,” said Ayache. The family currently has multiple cats, all rescues.

Peter Cooper mom: I lived under the neighbors from hell

350 First Avenue in Peter Cooper Village (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

350 First Avenue in Peter Cooper Village (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Sabina Mollot

What do you do when your upstairs neighbors are up all night, every night, making noise, sometimes by playing basketball on bare floors and other times by engaging in screaming matches, which are made worse by the fact that there are a total of 15 people living in the apartment? The answer is, unfortunately, not much, beyond wait for the wheels of justice to turn in housing court and for the offending party to get evicted.

For one family in Peter Cooper Village, the wait to lose their nightmarish neighbors took close to a year. It was last Tuesday when a city marshal finally visited the family’s neighbors’ apartment, but by then the residents, who were in arrears with their rent, had already skipped. A spokesperson for CWCapital declined to comment on the situation, citing litigation.

However, the downstairs neighbor, a resident of 350 First Avenue, spoke to Town & Village about her family’s ordeal on the condition of anonymity, out of fear of retaliation from her former neighbors.

They had after all, upon leaving, intentionally flooded their apartment by letting the bathtub run over, and, in order to ensure they’d inflicted the most damage possible, poured coffee grounds all over the floor.

Naturally this caused water damage and staining in the apartment below, and the downstairs resident gave the interview while staying at a hotel with her family. (However, she noted that the hotel stay wasn’t due to the flooding, but because she didn’t want to be around on the day of the marshal’s visit.) A spokesperson for the marshal’s office didn’t have details of the job available when T&V called for comment, but she did confirm the apartment had been left a mess with “garbage basically” everywhere.

According to their neighbor, other damage to the apartment included doors off of their hinges, walls that were covered in graffiti and floors covered in dog and cat feces.

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City Critters seeking temporary cat shelter

Some of the City Critters cats available for adoption at Petco (Photo by Lori Grunin)

Some of the City Critters cats available for adoption at Petco (Photo by Lori Grunin)

By Sabina Mollot
Normally for City Critters, a cat rescue and adoption group, the idea is to find a “forever home” for the felines who are kept at a local adoption space at a Petco shop in Kips Bay. However, this time it’s the organization itself that needs a home — albeit a temporary one — due to the Petco store being set to close next month.
Volunteers had known about the pending closure for a while and had arranged to simply set up their cages full of cats in need of adoption at another Petco store that was being built about 20 blocks north. However, as with most construction projects, there have been delays and that location isn’t expected to open until July. So now, City Critters is finding itself in need of a place to stay for at least a couple of months, preferably in the same neighborhood. “We need something temporary,” said one of the organization’s longtime volunteers, Jordana Serebrenik, “like a pop-up shop. We don’t need a huge storefront on 34th Street. We’d be okay in a 400-square-foot space.”
Meanwhile, she explained, the two-month gap between Petcos is happening during a critical time for City Critters to be able to show its animals to potential owners with a significant amount of funding at stake.
The reason is that from May 31-June 1, City Critters is scheduled to hold what is expected to be its biggest adoption event of the year. The organization also participated in event, which is held in nine states by Maddie’s Fund, last year at Union Square, and wound up getting 80 cats adopted. Maddie’s Fund structures the event so that members of the public get to bring pets home without having to pay any adoption fees, but in exchange for not charging them, participating pet groups like City Critters get subsidies that are significantly more money than what they would have made in fees.
“City Critters is being asked to, and would like to intake more cats,” said Serebrenik, “but we cannot do so without knowing that we have the ability to house and show the cats.” Having a space that’s public, rather than just foster homes, is crucial to that process, said Serebrenik, so potential adopters can see the cats, and, during hours when volunteers are there, interact with them and learn about adopting. City Critters has relied on Petco, which is located on Second Avenue between 31st and 32nd Street, for 15 years for the space to do this. Generally, eight cats are showed during the week, while around 20 are shown on weekends, after being delivered from foster homes or vets’ offices.
While Petco has offered other stores to use temporarily, those locations are already utilized by other animal rescue groups and additionally, staying local would enable City Critters to take advantage of Kips Bay area volunteers and foster owners, said Serebrenik.
It was at that Petco, where Serebrenik, a Kips Bay resident who now runs a business catching cats for owners and getting them into carriers for vet visits, first spotted the City Critters outpost and decided to volunteer. She’d previously been a lawyer but decided to stop practicing after 10 years. Then one day, when walking past the Petco store, she spotted the cats in their cages, lying on hammocks. Serebrenik recalled that she thought, “What better way to purge my soul of litigation than to clean litter boxes?”
This was seven years ago, and Serebrenik said throughout that time, Petco has been very generous with its space with City Critters. As soon as the store’s management learned of the delay in the new location’s opening, which was late in March, City Critters was informed, she said. The delay, she added, “is no fault of their own. It’s just circumstances.”
However, with City Critters now preoccupied with finding a new adoption center, this

Petco on Second Avenue in Kips Bay (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Petco on Second Avenue in Kips Bay (Photo by Lori Grunin)

has meant there’s been less time to promote the available cats and kittens and generate interest in adoptions in time for the Maddie’s Fund event.
“We are frantic,” said Serebrenik. “We don’t want to miss out on the single most important events for animals to get placed and agencies get money.”
Although the group has been able to steadily find homes for cats and kittens over the years, the challenge has been that there are always more. Sometimes, the group gets custody of cats that have been left in apartments when owners move and leave without them. City Critters will typically get tipped off by a building’s super or a neighbor who knows that an animal has been left behind.
“It happens more often than you’d want it to happen,” said Serebrenik, who’s heard of a couple of recent instances of cats being abandoned in Stuyvesant Town. Other times, the group will take in cats that have been left outside when there’s no evidence that anyone’s looking for them. Most of the time though, volunteers will find themselves having to take custody of cats that have been given up due to reasons such as allergies or an owner dying or moving to a place where there are no pets allowed.
“City Critters is focused on helping animals before they end up in a perilous situation,” said Serebrenik, “like being let out in a 12-degree polar vortex or taken by Animal Control, where their fate is hopefully okay but questionable.”
Petco meanwhile, reiterated that City Critters could use another Manhattan store if it can’t find the Kips Bay area space it wants.
“We’ve had a great relationship with City Critters since we opened the Kips Bay store,” said Lisa Stark, a rep for the company, “and we want to maintain that relationship.”
For the time being, hours at the Kips Bay Petco when cats are on view with a City Critters volunteer on hand are Saturday and Sunday from noon-6 p.m. and by appointment. For more information, email

January 21 is Squirrel Appreciation Day

Local animal rescuers share their tips on how

to help the little guys get through the winter


Squirrels frolick in Stuyvesant Town. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Squirrels frolic in Stuyvesant Town. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Just when everyone thought they were free of the holidays, at least until Valentine’s Day, another one is looming around the corner — this one in celebration of squirrels.

The bushy tailed critters are honored once a year on January 21 with Squirrel Appreciation Day, a holiday that began in 2001 as the pet project of wildlife rehabilitator Christy Hargrove.

Hargrove started the tradition, according to various online reports, on this particular date to draw attention to the animals during a time of year when their food supply starts running out.

Though such a thing might seem unthinkable in a neighborhood like Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village, which is home to the most well-fed squirrels on the planet, winter is still a tough time for any animal. So in honor of the holiday, Town & Village spoke this week with three local animal rescuers and rehabilitators, Marilyn Pascarelli of Stuyvesant Town, Kathy Compitus of Peter Cooper and Bernie Goetz, a 14th Street resident, to ask for their tips on how to help squirrels make it through the colder months.

Animal rescuer and City Critters volunteer Marilyn Pascarelli (Photo courtesy of Marilyn Pascarelli)

Animal rescuer and City Critters volunteer Marilyn Pascarelli (Photo courtesy of Marilyn Pascarelli)

Pascarelli, a City Critters volunteer who once rescued two baby squirrels that had dropped down from a tree in Stuy Town along with numerous other animals in the area, said she still doesn’t consider herself an expert on squirrels. But after conferring with another more experienced rescuer, she had this to say: Don’t feed the squirrels.

“People shouldn’t really feed them at all,” she said. However, she quickly added that she knew no one was going to pay any attention to that advice, so she wanted to stress that there’s a responsible way to go about feeding them.

One is to not offer peanuts. “If you have to feed them, feed them walnuts, almonds or pecans,” she said. They’re more expensive, she noted, but healthier. Peanuts can cause skin problems, she warned. “You’ll see that they lose fur,” she said.

Additionally, people shouldn’t overfeed them. More than once, Pascarelli said she’s seen squirrels get fed in a particular spot in Stuy Town only to return to the area three hours later to see someone else feeding squirrels in the same place. Those who want to feed the squirrels should try to avoid overfeeding by coordinating spots to do so with other feeders and also by cleaning up any food that doesn’t immediately get eaten. This is especially true if feeders heed her next tip.

Buy dry food intended for pet rats as a supplement to nuts.

“It has a lot of nutrients squirrels need,” she said. Squirrels’ natural diet consists of tree roots, branches and bark, though, “they don’t bother eating roots because they’re waiting for their peanuts.”

Pascarelli added that this time of year is when squirrels tend to get pregnant and in March and April, they have babies. As she’s seen, it isn’t unusual to find an abandoned squirrel if the mother has had too many babies. This could be blamed on overfeeding though. “If you overfeed them, they start to multiply like crazy,” she said.

Meanwhile, Goetz had a differing point of view.

Squirrel rehabilitator Bernie Goetz with a fluffy-tailed friend in Union Square Park (Photo courtesy of Bernie Goetz)

Squirrel rehabilitator Bernie Goetz with a fluffy-tailed friend in Union Square Park (Photo courtesy of Bernie Goetz)

Goetz, an entrepreneur who’s been known as the “subway vigilante” for his shooting of several robbers on a train three decades ago, is better known these days for being an advocate for squirrels.

Though not a licensed rehabilitator, he has nursed over 100 injured squirrels back to health over the years. Usually, they’re brought to Goetz by people who find them around the city or he finds them himself in Union Square Park or in ST/PCV, where he frequently goes to feed the little guys. Usually, he said, when a squirrel is hurt, it’s the result of an attack from another squirrel. However, Goetz did once encounter a squirrel who’d gotten caught in the spokes of a bicycle wheel.

In his view, the squirrels should be fed this time of year, because “there’s no nutrition on the trees, anymore.”

He also doesn’t believe peanuts are a problem, though he knows many rehabilitators have the view that they are.

“What squirrels need in the winter is calories,” he said. “Peanuts are cheap and they have a lot of calories.”

Compitus, who often feeds the birds and squirrels in Peter Cooper Village when not at work at the dog daycare center she owns, Wiggly Pups, echoed Goetz’s sentiment that squirrels need a helping human hand during the winter months. This is especially true in ST/PCV, she said, since squirrels have gotten used to humans providing food for them over a period of decades.

“Squirrels have nests and they find places to keep warm, but it’s hard for them to feed themselves,” she said. “The winters can be so harsh in the city.”

While Compitus agreed with Pascarelli that other nuts are more nutritious for squirrels than peanuts, she also suggested that feeders give squirrels fresh veggies like collard greens and fruit, especially cherries. “They love cherries and they’re great for them,” she said.

Animal rehabilitator and dog daycare center owner Kathy Compitus (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Animal rehabilitator and dog daycare center owner Kathy Compitus (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

While Compitus has found herself being scolded by ST/PCV security in the past for feeding the pigeons on the property, she said lately that hasn’t happened. She also said she thought that residents’ feeding of the local wildlife was “what makes Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village so unique.

“You don’t have wildlife on the Upper East Side walking around outside your window, so I think we have to take care of them so that we can continue to enjoy them,” she said.

Meanwhile, a rep for CWCapital didn’t get back to us on what ST/PCV policy currently is when it comes to squirrel feeding, but the truth is it hardly matters. Former owner Met Life had a no-feeding rule, which went completely ignored and Tishman Speyer, when owner, never bothered to say if there was still a rule in place. However, there have been times over the years, including during CW’s reign, when management has indicated that people who leave food out for the squirrels end up attracting rats. This is possible, though judging by the girth of many of the local squirrels, it’s also just as likely that the rats’ fluffy-tailed cousins are in fact managing to eat every treat thrown their way by well-meaning humans.

Fun fact: The squirrels that overrun Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village and have black fur and copper fur as well as the more common gray fur, are all known as Eastern Gray squirrels.