Sunday, April 3, 2011

Bee in the Bonnet

"Bee in the bonnet."  
A little rain on an otherwise parade.
That was the general purpose last night in a last minute action to represent the 368 geese rounded up and gassed last July under the watch of then-Prospect Park Alliance director, Tupper Thomas.
There was a special "black tie" retirement gala held at Prospect Park last night to honor the 30+ years of Tupper Thomas' service to New York City and specifically, Prospect Park.
Hundreds of VIPs attended the event, including city administrators, public officials and celebrities, though I am no expert in "celebrity sightings."
Unfortunately, whatever her other notable accomplishments, Ms. Thomas leaves her distinguished position with the smear of a large scale massacre on wildlife occurring in her park on the very last year of her service.
While it would be both wrong and patently unfair to "blame" Tupper Thomas specifically for the goose roundups and gassings that were directed and carried out via a contract between the city of the New York and the USDA, the fact is, Thomas did nothing to either protest or attempt to stop them.
Nor, to this day has Thomas ever expressed any remorse that the massacre of the entire goose population in her park even occurred.
And so, a small group of us set out last night to pay tribute to the fallen geese and to remind attendees to the special gala of what happened one mournful July morning (in this same park) and how we are not willing to "sweep it all under the rug."
I neither came up with the idea for this important tribute, nor did I organize it.
An artist named Kevin Beers did.
Mr. Beers also worked tirelessly over a day or two to produce a beautiful oil painting of two geese he photographed last year at Prospect Park before the massacre  
Sadly, those geese in the painting are presumably dead now.
Mr. Beers brought and displayed the serene and colorful artwork last night.
There were about ten of us all together.  We were positioned at the main entrance to Prospect Park, as people elegantly dressed,  began stepping out of limousines to attend Ms. Thomas celebratory retirement party.
Our "signs" were not particularly large or professional. 
But, they hopefully got the point across.
Artist sketches of a goose with a tear in her eye with the caption, "Keep them flying, not dying."
Mr. Beer's beautiful painting of two geese serenely swimming on the lake.
And my sign with the caption, "New York says NO to geese extermination" which was saved from last year's IDA goose demonstration at City Hall.
So, it was not a huge demonstration with lots of protesters, signs and speeches.
But, it had two things going for it:
The element of surprise.
And a peaceful, but subliminal message that the wildlife in our city parks is not up for grabs on governmental, clandestine, "hit lists."
Reactions of the VIP attendees to the gala were mixed, though virtually all looked vastly surprised to encounter this sudden presence for the geese and small visual display of protest.
Most invitees did not say anything, but simply walked towards the large tent housing the special event.
A few people were hostile and defensive:  "They should gas ALL the geese!  They are an invasive species!" 
But,  other attendees stopped to earnestly look at the posters and ask sincere questions.
Senator Eric Adams, attending with his elegant wife, and who, along with Letitia James has been such a courageous and outspoken advocate for the geese waved his support to us and actually stopped to give me a hug! 
That was especially nice.
It had been planned and hoped that we would hold candles to commemorate the dead geese when it got dark, but by that time the wind kicked up and we were not able to keep the candles lit.
But, it was OK.   By that time, most of the party invitees had already entered the big tent and we had, for all intensive purposes accomplished our humble mission:
That of being a visual presence for the geese and making the simple statements that we are neither going away and nor will further park massacres of wildlife go unnoticed, be tacitly accepted and/or swept under political rugs. 
We were just a bee in the bonnet.  -- PCA

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