Wildlife feeders, including a performance artist dressed as a pigeon, sing protest songs at the gates of City Hall on Tuesday. (Photos and video by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
With a full wildlife feeding ban expected to start this summer in city parks, animal rights activists rallied against the Parks Department’s proposed ban on Tuesday on the steps of City Hall.
Bronx resident Lucia Maria led the rally with her group, Bronx Animal Rights Electors, and said that the mayor had responded to a caller during Brian Lehrer’s “Ask the Mayor” segment on March 22, saying he would more closely examine the opposition to the ban. However, he has since approved of the ban, agreeing with the Parks Department’s argument that feeding birds and squirrels is also feeding the city’s rat population.
“The mayor made it sound as if city parks were over-run by hordes of wildlife feeders who littered parks with all kinds of debris from balls to balloons to bottles to old shoes,” Maria said. “It’s true, parks are littered with these items, but they are not from bird or squirrel feeders. The truth is that less than one percent of park-goers feed birds or squirrels. Of this percentage, most of the people who do feed them are senior citizens, the disabled and families. These are the people the Parks Department and the mayor now want to label as criminals.”
Tenants know who’s owned in Albany
On April 6, I attended a rent law town hall hosted by Cooper Square Committee. Our Senator Brad Hoylman, Assemblyman Harvey Epstein, former Assemblyman (now Senator) Brian Kavanagh and other electeds were there. They described the rich possibilities to strengthen the rent laws this year, as the Democrats hold the biggest majority in the State Senate since 1912. It was a veritable love fest of pro-tenant legislative possibilities they put forth.
But the landlord lobby still looms, which Hoylman explained as the reason his Pied-a-Terre Tax was axed out of the budget. I think the Pied-a-Terre Tax is magnificent and have cheered Hoylman on for years. It would have raised almost double for the MTA what its substitute, the congestion pricing plan which did pass, is projected to raise.
That the landlord lobby killed it is potent: there is no single politician in NY today who has gotten more money from real estate interests than Andrew Cuomo. He is the landlord lobby’s #1 favorite politician to fund. I think Senator Hoylman is being charitable in blaming “the landlord lobby.” I say follow the money.
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.
The proposal follows the Madison Square Park Conservancy’s asking park goers to stop feeding the squirrels, arguing its caused more aggressive begging and damage to the park’s tree canopy. (Photo by Madison Square Park Conservancy)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Resident bird and squirrel-lovers, beware: a popular park pastime might soon be banned. The Parks Department announced last Friday that the agency will be holding hearings this March on changes to city rules that would prohibit park patrons from feeding birds and squirrels.
The Parks Department will be holding a public hearing on Friday, March 1 for a proposed amendment to the rules regarding feeding animals in parks. The current rules on wildlife feeding don’t specifically ban the feeding of birds and squirrels but under the proposed amendment, feeding all animals in city parks would be prohibited. Under the current rule, feeding all other animals in city parks, including in zoo areas, is not allowed.
The agency said that one of the main reasons for the new rule is to reduce food sources for rats and other rodents as a humane method of pest control.
“Sharing your last slice is generally good etiquette in NYC, unless you’re sharing it with a rat or a squirrel,” a representative for the Parks Department said. “Feeding wildlife in parks creates a mess and is bad for the health of our native wildlife. Through our new policy, we’ll make sure that squirrels, pigeons, and other animals don’t rely on takeout.”
You don’t have to drive to hate 20th St.
Well, I’ve just about seen it all in my six decades here living in ST/PCV… mostly good, some great, some questionable, but now I have seen it all! The asinine idea by some “brainiac” in NYC government that decided to totally screw up East 20th Street between First Avenue and Avenue C!
No, I’m not a car owner that lost one of the few precious parking spaces; just a good ol’ fashioned resident that cares about his neighbors and most importantly, our safety. Over the last few years we went from the normal two east and westbound lanes, to one more narrow lane to appease all the Bloomberg/Big Bird bike riders.
And now we have the narrowest east/westbound lanes for traffic so that a two-way bike lane could be constructed on the north or Peter Cooper side… not to mention that those bike lanes must be crossed to get to a parked car, the two new bus stop islands or to simply cross the street to go to Lenz’s Deli, Mount Sinai or Oval Fitness. Bozos!
A squirrel-related blackout is unlikely to happen here, Con Ed says. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
Just when you thought all squirrels did was chomp on unsuspecting children in Stuyvesant Town and damage trees with their incessant gnawing, they’ve also begun causing massive power outages.
According to a story in the Daily News, officials upstate discovered that a pesky squirrel caused a string of power outages that left more than 10,000 in the dark last weekend.
“The rodent somehow managed to make its way into a substation in Lancaster, a Buffalo suburb, Sunday, knocking out three substations, New York State Electric and Gas said,” the News wrote. Fortunately, for the residents in the area, power was restored three hours later.
But with the threat of more extreme wintry weather ahead this weekend, Town & Village turned to Con Ed to ask about the possibility of such a thing occurring in a certain Manhattan neighborhood that has not only a power plant but an abundance of Eastern Greys scurrying about.
Stranded by disabled MTA
To the Editor: An open letter to the MTA and our local politicians.
On Thursday, Sept 6 at 2:45, on the corner of 14th Street and Avenue C, I was waiting for the westbound Ave D cross town buss. For 45 minutes I watched as eleven D buses go eastbound. Three buses going west stopped but they did not allow me to board, the driver said their buses were full.
A fourth bus stopped and the driver also did not want to assist me to board, I am handicapped and use a walker, however, a kind gentleman waiting with me picked up my walker and placed into the bus. No one got up and offered me a seat; I had to sit on my walker.
Back when no one hated squirrels
Re: “To feed or not to feed the squirrels,” T&V, Aug. 16
My response to the squirrel dilemma would probably exceed, in length, your article.
I am appalled. The squirrels are part of our community and I would be horrified if a decision was made that they be evicted. I have never been made aware of any instances of aggression. We lived, and do, in harmony.
However, as a pediatric nurse practitioner, and even if I weren’t, I am very concerned about the current parenting of children; not commenting on all parents.
Cell phone/social media obsession, failure to interact with the child/monitor the activities/safety of the child.
A squirrel samples human cuisine at Madison Square Park, where, the conservancy says, squirrels, in their growing numbers, have been damaging trees. (Photo courtesy of Madison Square Park Conservancy)
By Sabina Mollot
On the heels of Stuyvesant Town’s management appealing to tenants for suggestions on ways to prevent squirrels from attacking their children, the overseers of Madison Square Park have appealed to community residents with a plea to stop feeding the park’s squirrels.
In a blog post published on the conservancy’s website on Tuesday, August 21, the conservancy told feeders their actions are doing more harm than good, by getting squirrels used to a free food source that disappears in the winter.
Additionally, according to a conservancy spokeswoman, as a result of all the feeding, squirrels have been multiplying more, and due to competition for food and resources, have taken to gnawing on tree branches, damaging the park’s dense tree canopy. Humans have also been getting pestered more, as recently noted in this newspaper by Town & Village associate editor Maria Rocha-Buschel, who was recently poked — twice — on the shoulder by a pushy squirrel as she sat on a park bench.
A helping hand from a distance
Re: “To feed or not to feed the squirrels,” T&V, Aug. 16
Like the majority of Stuyvesant Town residents, I too received the questionnaire about the squirrels. I was perplexed that it has come to that: current residents having to decide how they feel about the squirrels, which have been around Stuyvesant Town long before any of the current humans, and thus decide their fate! To cut a long story short, in the comments section of the questionnaire, I expressed my additional views and suggestions, which happen to almost completely coincide with those of Katherine Compitus, somebody who clearly knows a thing or two about wildlife, as expressed in your article of August 16, 2018.
She makes many excellent points about the issue, the most important being that management should install its own squirrel feeders in the property, out of the way of people. I am afraid that one key issue that has been overlooked in all this, is the fact that there would be no need for residents to feed squirrels had Tishman Speyer and now the current management, not cut down perfectly healthy and mature oak trees which have always provided plenty of acorns, the natural food for squirrels.
Leave the squirrels alone
This squirrel thing is the straw that is breaking my back. In this time of national hatefulness and disunity, Stuyvesant Town now has to be roiled by a few disgruntled people who probably have never seen much that they don’t complain about. Right off the bat, let me ask where are the mothers, fathers, nannies when these little kids are being mauled by the complex’s predators?
For 27 years, I have had very young nieces, nephews and children of friends feed the squirrels. It has always been the highlight of their visit – and I monitor how close squirrels get to each kid. Are you telling me that squirrels are just singling out young kids and pouncing on them before a watching adult can intervene? The creatures have been here since 1948 and coexisted with myriad of children brought up in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village. And now this has all been happening just in the past two years?
I request that Town & Village search its archives and see how often and when there have been like complaints about squirrels. The less said the better about the older citizens who can’t bear to have a squirrel within three feet of them.
That is one of the questions asked by SPS after another child gets attacked by squirrel in Stuy Town
A squirrel forages for food in a garbage can in this photo taken last year. (Photo by Brian P. Loesch)
By Sabina Mollot
This one’s a hard nut to crack.
After yet another child was injured by a squirrel in Stuyvesant Town (in this case scratched), Blackstone is asking for residents’ thoughts on what to do with the property’s unofficial mascots.
Nearly a year ago, a child was scratched in the face while playing in a Stuy Town playground, and in the more recent incident, another child was scratched. Two summers ago, three different mothers reported that their children were bitten by squirrels. According to Rick Hayduk, general manager of Stuyvesant Town and CEO of StuyTown Property Services, there was another scratch incident this year in April as well.
In the most recent incident, about two weeks ago, Hayduk said the child was behind a playset at Playground 8 near First Avenue, also known as the train playground, when it happened. While the area where the young resident was at the time isn’t seen by a security camera, both parents later told Hayduk that a squirrel had been looking for food inside the child’s stroller. Upon seeing the stroller’s owner, the squirrel jumped out, clawing the child in its bid for freedom. Hayduk said he doesn’t know the child’s gender or where he or she was scratched, but does know that the child was promptly whisked off to a doctor. Asked if the injury was serious, Hayduk indicated he didn’t think it was appropriate to decide if it was or wasn’t, adding, “I don’t want to understate it.”
Honorable mensch’un for Ravitch
What is a Mensch? I wanted to get this right so I did a little research. The online Urban Dictionary says: “The key to being “a real mensch” is nothing less than … a sense of what is right, responsible.” (emphasis added).
I’m casting my vote for Richard Ravitch, the owner of Waterside Plaza, who proposed a plan to the city that would freeze or roll back rents of some residents who are paying a burdensome portion of their income – defined as more than 30 percent — for rent (“Affordability deal proposed for Waterside,” T&V, Aug. 9).
I was in college when the Waterside development was announced and served as a student member of an ad-hoc committee convened by the school to explore how this new, middle income housing complex would impact the college and how the college might best prepare to serve this population of potential new students. I’m quite certain I contributed very little to the discussions, but people much smarter than myself recognized the ripple effect and saw the opportunities and challenges before them.
A similar offender in Stuy Town in 2016 (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Squirrels have been a hot topic in this community and in this newspaper over the years. Each side has been unexpectedly passionate in defending its position, to say the least: one of the most recent controversies involved a resident who received a threatening postcard because of a lukewarm annoyance at the rodents’ ceaseless begging. But the debate has finally become personal because on a weekend earlier this summer, I had an encounter that tipped my bias in favor of a ban on squirrel-feeding.
I was sitting on a bench in Madison Square Park on a Saturday afternoon, minding my own business, when I felt something tap against my shoulder. I turned and realized I was almost face to face with a squirrel, not the expected human hand, perched on the back of the bench, who for some reason thought I had a treat for him.
I’ve never had particularly strong feelings about this topic before and could see both sides of the argument. Squirrels can be a bit ratty-looking but also cute in their own way and I can understand the appeal of communing with nature in a city where nature is scarce. And if someone wants squirrels surrounding them or even climbing all over their body, that’s their business.
Watch and learn from The Challengers
The final game of STLL’s Challenger Division was played on Sunday, June 10 at 3 p.m. on the Con Ed west field. The sun wasn’t shinning and drops of rain drizzled upon the players who were undaunted by the less than perfect weather conditions.
The game started out with some fashionable femininity when Anna, wearing the number 1 over a tiered flounce skirt and guided by Red Team Coach Katie, hit the first homer of the game. Number 19, Jonathan, gave the ball a powerful whack before removing his cap, showing off his natural red hair, and rounding the bases with the stride of a long distance runner. Neil, always handsome in shirt number 6, toured the bases, with his own unique style, pausing only to consider a career in photography.
Jamison, number 14, wowed the crowd (especially the pitcher) when she slammed the first ball tossed part way to The East River! Robbie, a tough guy to the finish, made his way to second base wearing jersey number 10 and displaying a true sense of sportsmanship. Jaden, who traveled south from Bronx, N.Y., to wear number 17 with pride has a good-natured mom to run him around the bases. Rory donned the number 8 and a good-looking pair of glasses, before demonstrating his skill and speed.