Tuesday, May 14, 2019
Do New Yorkers want wildlife-empty parks?
Apparently, they do. Either that, or most didn't know about or understand the long-term implications and goals of the proposed Wildlife Feeding Ban that the Mayor has signed in recent days.
Roxanne Delgado of the Bronx Electors for Animal Rights met with park officials last week. Ms. Delgado had worked hard to document a case of why the feeding ban should be rejected, but the minds she was speaking to were already closed. There was no discussion or question. It was a meeting only to show there was a meeting; a mere formality. Just like the formalities of public comments and hearing.
But in the end, it didn't matter what the people had to say as there simply weren't enough of them.
It didn't matter, any of the research, documentations or photos of suffering, disappearing and dying park wildlife. It didn't even matter, the recent report from the UN, stating that one million plant and animal species now face extinction.
What mattered was how to turn city parks into mere extention of the city itself, complete with outdoor gyms, concerts, food fests, marathons, movies and fireworks. (Indeed, the only things missing are roller coasters, but perhaps they are in the works.)
What mattered was how to further "discourage" or force out any wildlife still remaining in city parks. First, remove natural food sources. Secondly, heavy use of pesticides and insecticides. Thirdly, criminalize alternate food sources as represented by human support of wildlife.
This past Saturday, Ms. Delgado received a call from the Mayor's office, informing her that Mayor deBlasio had just signed off on the feeding ban. All that remains now is its actual adoption and implementation.
When Ms. Delgado asked how park wildlife will survive now that most natural food sources have been removed and alternate food sources banned, she was told, "The wildlife will find other places for food and nesting."
This reaffirms what an Audubon (and ban supporter) representative told Ms. Delgado when asked the same question more than a month ago:
"The wildlife can go to Long Island to find food."
Apparently, birds, squirrels, raccoons, and waterfowl are not welcomed anywhere in NYC.
Does that mean New Yorkers will have to buy tickets for the Long Island Rail Road or Amtrak if they wish to see any wildlife?
Or does it mean they will have to buy zoo tickets or sign up for special $15.00 "tours" with wildlife "experts" with powerful binoculars to find a warbler or chipmunk in the park?
It all reminds of an old Joni Mitchell song:
"They cut down the trees and put them in a tree museum.
And they charge the people a dollar and a half just to see them."
The question is, is this what New Yorkers signed up for? Is this what New Yorkers really want?
"Don't it always go to show? That you don't know what you've got till it's gone? "
If not, then they have to find way to let their representatives and media know before ban is fully and actually enacted. Neither Roxanne nor I can do it for them.
"They pave paradise and put up a parking lot."
Monday, May 13, 2019
It's said that when a daughter marries, a mother doesn't lose a daughter; she gains a son.
But when my daughter married ten years ago, I felt I just lost a daughter.
It didn't help that we lived at opposite sides of the country. Phone calls became infrequent. Visits even fewer; two or three times a year, if lucky.
About four years ago, Tara and Ben moved to NY state from Utah.
My daughter and I were finally in the same state, but still more than four hours away by bus or car.
Matters improved little. I rarely saw Tara and had no communication at all with my son-in-law.
He was a stranger to me.
Then, last year, I decided to move from what had been "home" for my entire life -- New York City -- to upstate NY.
The decision was not an easy one. On the contrary, it was difficult.
I considered myself an independent woman, who, despite gripes about NYC, loved it. It was after all, my "home." I had never wanted to live elsewhere. I loved my neighborhood, I loved Central Park, I was comfortable in my apartment which contained so many memories of my life and those of my daughter growing up.
But New York City is an expensive place to live -- especially when one is older and retired. I was bleeding money and resources and had to live on a tight budget.
I was also dismayed with many of the changes I was seeing in my neighborhood, as well as beloved, Central Park. More and more high rises going up, more crowds and more over-priced, trendy stores. And it seemed the natural wildlife of Central Park was being pressured and "pushed out" to make room for and prioritize all manner of human activities and distractions.
Finally, I suffered a painful three-month bout of Shingles in 2017 that affected my right arm and left me struggling to accomplish even simple tasks. I realized for the first time, I was vulnerable.
But even more than these challenges, I mostly missed my daughter.
I missed our relationship -- and wondered where it has gone?
And so, as hard as it was -- and with the full help and support of Tara -- I finally bit the bullet and packed my belongings and cats and moved to Cortland, NY in early 2018. My daughter had found and helped secure a lovely apartment (close to shopping), complete with balcony, outdoor pool and other amenities and she drove to NYC to help me move.
I remember one moment, as the car headed towards the Lincoln Tunnel to exit NYC (perhaps for the last time for me), I thought, "I am not leaving NYC as much as it left me."
I did not look back.
I have been in Cortland a little more than a year now. It's a lovely, small city with less than 100,000 people. It's simple, unpretentious and in many ways, seems a throw-back to the 1950's. It lacks the glitter and "excitement" of NYC, but I wasn't seeking those things anyway during later years.
But the best thing about living in Cortland is the proximity to my daughter and son-in-law who live in nearby Ithaca. The days of holidays alone are gone as well as worrying how to lift something heavy or get to shopping outside of walking distance.
But even better than all this, is finally being able to watch a movie or TV show with my daughter and discussing afterwards and getting to know my son-in-law as a real human being and not just the person "who took my daughter from me."
The truth is, we are not parents for just 18 years. We are parents for life.
And sometimes, we have to be willing to meet our kids halfway; give as well as expect. Listen as well as talk.
And so yes, it may have taken ten years and it may have required some hard lessons for me, but it is true that when your daughter marries, you don't lose a daughter; you gain a son.
You just have to willing to meet both in the middle.
........ ............ .........
Friday, May 10, 2019
There is both, good and bad news regarding the three nesting geese at the Jackie Onassis Reservoir in Central Park.
The good news is that two of the three successfully hatched goslings this week. Mary, on the north side of Reservoir, produced four healthy babies and Caroline, on the south side, three.
Caroline and her mate, Charlie are new to nesting at the Reservoir. It is speculated that she is likely one of the original daughters of Greta from several years ago. (Female geese choose nesting sites and it is usually a location close to or actually where they themselves hatched.)
Unfortunately, the news for Greta herself isn't so good. Her eggs failed to hatch and even more mysteriously, completely vanished.
In fact, there is nothing at nesting site to show that a nest was ever there. No downy feathers, twigs or fragments of shells remain. The area nearly appears cleaned up.
One might normally suspect human meddling or interference under circumstances like this. But in this case, it's hard to know for sure or even guess.
Both, Laura Taylor (our reporter and photographer on the ground) and myself were concerned about Greta from the get-go.
Unlike Mary and Caroline who both, "calorie loaded" elsewhere before coming to the Reservoir to nest, Greta and her mate, Hansel returned to the plant-barren Reservoir in March. With so little grass and foliage there, it's questionable that Greta built up enough necessary fat reserves to successfully nest and produce viable goslings.
The other matter of concern was Greta's behavior. Unlike past years, Greta's nest this year was sparse with little down and nesting materials. Granted, there was little around her with which to build an ornate nest, but the lack of feather down was unusual for Greta.
Could it be that Greta was discouraged or pessimistic after losing all five goslings last year at a month-old?
Impossible to answer that question as we just don't know enough about animals' emotions, memories or long term response to trauma. For whatever reason, it simply appeared that Greta's heart was not into nesting this year as was the case in the past.
But regardless of the reasons why Greta's eggs failed to hatch, current reality is that there are seven healthy goslings at the Reservoir and attention and priority is -- or should be with their hopeful survival.
Last year, 8 of 9 goslings perished at the Reservoir (all five of Greta's babies and 3 of 4 of Mary's). It is suspected, that if not the main cause for demise of goslings, malnutrition had to be a contributing factor as all the foliage and vegetation that surrounded the Reservoir had been cut down.
Goslings need to eat constantly in order to attain nearly full size and flight capability within three months.
Currently, some greenery and vegetation has (thankfully) grown back at the Reservoir. But is it enough to support and sustain seven growing goslings through the next three months?
That is not known at this time.
However, in view of what occurred last year, it seems only cautionary and prudent to suggest that these goslings should receive supplemental feeding and support from humans until such time they are capable of flying out with their parents at about 11-weeks-old.
This is also why it is important to oppose and fight the proposed Wildlife Feeding Ban that now looms over NYC and threatens empathetic feeders with criminal arrest.
There are situations that arise that sometimes require human assistance to wildlife. Whether they be domestic ducks abandoned to park lakes, song birds and waterfowl trying to survive tough winters or vulnerable goslings confined to an area where "natural foods" have been deliberately removed or destroyed, people deserve the right to be charitable.
As for the new Reservoir goose families, as of yesterday all the geese and babies were congregated on the east side of the watercourse, including Hansel and Greta.
Perhaps if they cannot have goslings themselves this year, Hansel and Greta have decided to aid and help protect and support the babies of Greta's sister, Mary and daughter, Caroline.
Canada geese are known for outstanding family loyalty and looking out for each other. That only we could say the same about our own species that too often prioritizes selfishness over concern and caring for others.
"We care about the wildlife."
Yesterday, Roxanne Delgado of the Bronx Animal Rights Electors met with several NYC Parks officials who are pushing the Parks Commissioner to sign the proposed Wildlife Feeding Ban.
Ms. Delgado worked very hard doing research, investigations, interviews and gathering documents, articles and photos in order to demonstrate and prove why the feeding ban must be rejected.
During her point by point, half-hour presentation, not one question was raised to her.
Ms. Delgado was anticipating an active, engaged dialogue. Instead, she received stone faces and nary a word in comment apart from robotic and candy-coated assurances that, "We care about the wildlife."
Well, let's take a brief look on how NYC Parks "care about wildlife."
* NYC Parks are routinely doused with fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides and rodenticides. Nut, fruit and seed-bearing trees and flora are removed and replaced by ornamental and non-native foliage that provide little food sources for birds and squirrels.
* Since 2009, more than 6,000 resident Canada geese have been rounded up from city parks and Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and either gassed or slaughtered. Those geese still surviving in city parks have been subjected to nearly year-round harassment by Geese Police, as well as egg and nest destruction.
It is not exaggeration to call such programs, "Management to zero" (which is apparently, the intended goal).
* Last summer, hundreds of raccoons died in Central Park (and other city parks), virtually wiping out the population. Parks claimed Canine Distemper killed a number of the raccoons that were tested. But did it kill all? How did a virus kill so many animals living in different locations and even different parks? Raccoons normally don't travel far from home territories. Few questions were asked by the press and even fewer answered.
* One of the jobs of Urban Park Rangers is to provide rescue for injured or ailing park wildlife. Park Officials claim the rangers are "well trained" for rescues. However, they are not well equipped.
Park Rangers are neither equipped with nets nor boats. Most times, they show up with a cat carrier which does not aid in capturing wildlife either from the water or on land. On the other hand, Geese Police DOES have boats in order to harass geese and other birds on water.
No boats for rescue. But boats for harassment and forcing out. What does that say about "caring for wildlife?"
* Park Rangers also claim they have "no access" to the Jackie Onassis Reservoir for waterfowl rescues. And yet, the Reservoir is a major resting point for thousands of migratory water birds passing through NYC twice a year, as well as a wintering spot for hundreds of migratory ducks and geese from December through March. During bad winters, these migratory birds (which are supposed to be protected by federal law) are left to starve to death when the Reservoir and park lakes freeze over more than 90%.
* NYC parks not only allow, but encourage so-called, "Catch and Release" fishing. Fishermen routinely throw slices of white bread in the water in order to lure fish -- the same white bread that NYC parks now want to criminalize empathetic people for tossing to a hungry duck. But if bread is so "bad" for wildlife, why is it any healthier when tossed by a fisherman?
Fishermen routinely and carelessly discard fishing line around parks and lakes posing injury and sometimes loss of limbs or even death to waterfowl.
One Central Park goose lost a foot to fishing line several years ago, another goose with fishing bobble around beak, lost her life when Rangers were unable to rescue her and a mallard nearly lost his leg. Some years back, a duckling at Turtle Pond was caught on the end of a fishing hook horrifying onlookers and another time, a turtle was caught at Harlem Meer and the fisherman ( a kid) didn't know how to get it off the hook.
But not only is the fishing destructive to wildlife in general, but also to the fish, many of whom suffer mouth injuries before finally being tossed back in the water -- after pictures are taken.
* Many parks allow BBQ's which leave parks littered with trash and chicken bones and which in turn attract rats -- which bird feeders are then blamed for.
* Some parks (especially, Central Park) routinely put on fireworks displays for occasions such as classical music concerts and marathons, in addition to holidays. The fireworks terrify park wildlife and send hundreds of birds flying out.
These are just some of the many (destructive) ways NYC Parks "care about wildlife."
Truth is, wildlife is an inconvenience to City Parks which prioritize all manner of human activity, money-making enterprises and entertainment over biodiversity, nature and wildlife.
And it is exactly this same lack of biodiversity, altering of habitats, destruction of food sources, deliberate killings and heavy use of pesticides/insecticides that is "pushing/forcing wildlife out" globally, causing more than a million plant and animals species to now face extinction.
Push and "discourage" wildlife from NYC parks and where is it supposed to go? Someone's back yard? Or the same place much of the world's wildlife is going? -- Nowhere?
Yes, NYC parks "care about wildlife."
They care about it being gone.
And the proposed feeding ban if passed, will be the final nail in the coffin for NYC park wildlife.
Remove, replace and destroy natural food sources and then criminalize the alternate food sources as provided by human support.
"Management" to zero - - exactly what the UN report warned against.
Tuesday, May 7, 2019
On the same day a devastating report was issued from the UN regarding animal and plant extinctions, new life was hatched at the Jackie Onassis Reservoir in Central Park. The symbolic irony should not be lost.
Although all the major newspapers covered the extinctions report in which over one million animal, plant and insect species face extinction due mostly to human activities, one can bet the critical issue won't even be mentioned during next year's Presidential campaigns and debates (unless people demand that it be).
We are a species that for the most part, likes to close its eyes to hard and uncomfortable realities -- especially those that compel us to make changes in our lives. In many ways we are drowning in our own over-consumption and consumerism -- and we are taking the rest of the planet and animals with us.
But that is not to say matters are completely without hope.
"Think globally, act locally."
This was the original mantra of the Environmental movement and it is so true.
It is vital to be aware of what is happening around the world and how even small, everyday decisions we make have impact. But nowhere is our power stronger for change than in our own backyards and communities.
When noting wildlife disappearing in local parks and communities, it is critical to observe, question why and when necessary, take proactive action to stand up and speak out to officials and those in charge of so-called, "wildlife management."
That is in fact, what this entire struggle to protect what little wildlife remains in NYC parks has been about.
Alterations in and destruction of natural habitat, heavy use of pesticides, insecticides and rodenticides and now, a proposed ban on all feeding of wildlife are succeeding in virtually emptying NYC parks of existing wildlife.
Such should be unacceptable in a world that is in the midst of the "Sixth Great Mass Extinction ."
So far, a final decision on the proposed "Wildlife Feeding Ban" (though expected in early April), has not yet been issued for NYC parks. That is hopefully a possible sign that all the calls and letters are having some impact. It's important to keep them coming:
Yesterday, friend and fellow wildlife advocate, Laura Taylor went to the Jackie Onassis Reservoir in Central Park and discovered that the nesting Canada goose we named, "Caroline" hatched three perfect goslings.
Caroline and her mate, Charlie are first-time parents at the Reservoir. It is suspected she is likely a daughter of Greta who is currently nesting at the East Side of the watercourse. (Female geese choose nesting sites and usually in locations where they themselves hatched several years before.)
There is also new foliage attempting to grow in between the rocks surrounding Reservoir.
All hopeful signs. But hope alone means little without consistent action.
Whether these goslings ultimately survive -- and the world's wildlife as a whole -- depends upon the actions that we as humans take over the ensuing weeks, months and years.
Environment, climate change and animal extinctions need to be pushed to the top of priority lists during all upcoming elections.
And in the meantime, we need to be not only allowed to support city parks wildlife, but welcomed to do so.
Friday, May 3, 2019
We're all familiar with the phrase, "Fair weather friends." - - The people who love you when you've just hit the lottery, but run the other way when you've been kicked to the curb by a job, lover or some nasty bug. Call these people when the sun is shining, but not when clouds and storm rule the day!
But in the duck and goose worlds things are quite different.
Mallards love me when temperatures are frigid, snow covers the ground and ice coats the water. They fly to greet me, throw themselves at me feet and even try to follow me home!
" We are so happy to see you! What have you brought for us?" They plead. "We are so hungry. We are so desperate; so cold!"
But come the spring and fair weather, there is dramatic change.
"What, you again? What do you want? Go away. We don't need you!"
It is more than a three mile walk to and back from my local park.
But these days when going there, the mallards are usually resting and sunning themselves on the grass. They can't be bothered to get off their butts and walk ten feet to greet me. It's way too much effort!
So much for gratitude for helping them get through a tough winter.
The mallards are a greedy and totally narcissistic bunch, sad to say.
But Canada geese? Ah, they are different!
Like the mallards, the geese appreciate some human support during harsh winters.
But unlike mallards, the geese don't forget who their human friends are -- even during fair weather and even when they don't need human handouts.
When arriving to the park yesterday, most of the mallards, domestic ducks and even Chinese geese were off in snoozeville. Nestled in the tall, fresh grass, most heads were tucked in backs and there was barely a stir. I am reasonably sure they were aware of my presence, but unless I brought sun tan oil, they weren't interested.
"Don't go away mad, just go away." I could hear their collective minds say. "We're good. We don't need anything!"
I looked for the new goose family.
Bogie and Bacall had just hatched goslings two days before, but when last seen, the babies were safely tucked under Mama's wings while the family rested. They were too far away (behind the fenced area) to photograph.
I finally did see the family yesterday, but like two days before, they were far back in the wooded deer area. But this time, I could make out a couple of tiny, yellow heads bobbing up and down in the grass.
But still too far for me to photograph.
I stood at the fence for a while on what seemed a lazy, spring day. Even the deer were apparently taking it easy somewhere amongst the wooded trees. No one was interested in seeing me.
But, wait. Just as I was about to turn around and head for home...
Bacall suddenly started flying forward! And three bouncing balls of yellow fluff began running behind her, followed closely, by an anxious dad.
In an instant, the family was before me. And though I tossed some duck pellets and a few small bits of bread, neither parent was particularly hungry -- though the babies nibbled curiously.
Bogie and Bacall proudly brought their babies before me, both to greet and to show off.
They stayed a few minutes and obligingly posed for photos and then retreated peacefully back to the wooded, grassy area; babies merrily trotting beside them. It was sweet of them to make my long walk to the park fruitful and fulfilling.
And so yes, some people are only friends during good times. And most ducks seem only interested in friendship during bad times.
Ah, geese never forget who their human friends are and they are always there for you come fair weather or "fowl."
Thursday, May 2, 2019
Over the years, those struggling to protect the wildlife of city parks have had to contend with many false claims put forth by those advocating for destruction and/or "discouragement" of park wildlife.
The most recent theory to be "tossed at wall" is the suggestion (by a feeding ban supporter) that the 8 of 9 goslings who perished at the Jackie Onassis Reservoir last summer were all likely victims of "Snapping turtles."
Of course there is no evidence to back up this claim nor even documentation to show Snapping turtles actually exist at the world famous location.
Neither myself nor friends have ever seen a Snapping turtle at the Reservoir and I personally was there thousands of times. (Snappers do however live at some of the Central Park lakes and ponds.)
But even if we assume (for sake of argument) that Snapping turtles exist at Reservoir, the suggestion that they suddenly took out 8 of 9 otherwise healthy goslings more than a month-old and within a week is preposterous.
Goslings move fast and have two protective parents. Snapping turtles move extremely slowly and mostly stay at the bottom of the water in sand or mud.
Moreover, Snapping turtles are omnivores who mostly eat plants, worms, insects, fish, frogs or ailing birds.
Despite Snapping turtles at Turtle Pond and the Lake in Central Park over the past decade, no goslings fell victim to them.
Of course, I have no "hard evidence" that the demise of the 8 goslings last summer was due to malnutrition.
But that theory is based on circumstantial evidence:
It is fact that the "natural food sources" for goslings (plants, grass, vegetation) were destroyed around the Reservoir last spring.
It is fact that goslings have to constantly eat in order to attain adult size and flight within three months of age.
It is fact that all 8 goslings perished at about a month-old and all within ten days of each other.
Ruling out deliberate poison as possible cause, that leaves few options. (No dogs, foxes, coyotes or fishermen around Reservoir.)
It is possible that poor nutrition left goslings in a weakened state, thereby making them vulnerable to predation by regular turtles or hawks. In such case, malnutrition is contributing and primary (if not final), cause of death.
One of the most popular "theories" (especially on the Internet) by those opposing any support of park wildlife is that human feeding (especially bread) "may cause Angel Wing."
The key word in that sentence is "may."
I could claim that drinking coffee "may cause insanity in humans."
That doesn't mean it does.
"May, might, could and can" are disqualifying (or guessing) words that don't require actual evidence to back then up.
And so we find little evidence to back up the charge that bread causes Angel Wing. On the contrary, the few scientific studies done on this question suggest the condition to be primarily genetic in causation. (It mostly occurs in domestic fowl raised for meat or eggs.)
Even more to the point, Angel Wing rarely occurs in wild mallard populations and these are the birds most fed bread in public parks.
Another "may" that is particularly disconcerting is the claim that human feeding "may delay bird migrations."
Bird migrations are established over thousands of years. And while there are occasional variations due to climate changes, presence of predators or available natural food sources, birds don't alter migratory patterns based upon some humans feeding treats. When the calendar tells birds to move, they move.
So far, we have discussed theories, guesses and speculations.
But there are times when park officials and representatives outright lie to people. Such was the case in 2010 when park spokespeople from Prospect Park told questioning park goers that the park's 360 molting geese and goslings "flew to a nearby cemetery."
The truth was, the geese and their babies had been rounded up at dawn on that sultry July 8th morning and sent for gassing.
The bottom line to all this is that unfortunately, one cannot take as "fact," claims and charges made by those whose goal appears to be the destruction of or pushing out of wildlife from city parks. - - Especially when those claims are preceded by unprovable, "May, might, could or can."
It's important to require evidence of claims and not just take at face value. A salt shaker seems to be sad necessity when communicating with park officials and representatives.
Sunday, April 28, 2019
It's a bit ironic that I moved from NYC to Cortland, N.Y. more than a year ago, yet find myself writing nearly exclusively about the same problems plaguing NYC parks and their wildlife as when I was living there.
Could it be that you can take the woman out of NYC, but not NYC out of the woman?
Actually, I don't think so.
There is nothing I miss about NYC other than friends still living there and the wildlife I came to know in Central Park. Wildlife that appears now to be under intense pressure to, "Move to Long Island."
In terms of contrast, I am writing today about my local park in Cortland, the Municipal Water Works Park, which is less than two miles from where I live.
Yes, it's a bit of hike walking to and from there, and it's not the rolling hills and manicured lawns of Central Park. But the Water Works Park is a special kind of haven for wildlife.
A large, wooded area is fenced off for the herd of roughly 30 White-tailed deer maintained there and there is a sizable, temperature-controlled pond that is ideal for wild ducks and geese -- especially during harsh Cortland winters. There are also many robust squirrels, both grey and red and some groundhogs.
Not only are families with children welcomed to bring food for wildlife, but the park actually fills troughs with hard corn and fresh water for deer.
While there are picnic tables in the park, most visitors come exclusively to feed and interact with the deer and waterfowl.
Some people even have names for the deer and can tell you all about their relationships to each other.
In addition to wild mallards and geese, there are also a number of domestic ducks at the park and two domestic (Chinese) geese whom I call, "The Honeymooners " -- that is because Ralph and Alice are so LOUD! I understand the Chinese geese have been living at the park six years, though no one seems to know how they or the domestic ducks got there. But all survived a brutal winter and appear to be doing well.
Presently, in the park, things are in peaceful lull.
Most of the geese and mallards have departed for more "private" nesting sites. The deer have lost their antlers and the young have yet to hatch or be born.
But within weeks, the park will be bristling with new life in the forms of baby ducklings, goslings and fawns!
Last year, we had at least 60 ducklings, close to 40 goslings and maybe about 7 or 8 fawns-- all of them healthy despite nearly constant human feeding throughout the year, including much bread.
Waterfowl population does fluctuate in the park with it being lower in early spring and fall and heavier in summer (because of babies) and in winter because of the temperature-managed pond.
Though not having the funding and resources of NYC parks, the Municipal Water Works Park in Cortland is beautifully maintained with crystal clean water all the time, natural trees and fauna. And despite all the wildlife feeding, the park is never littered with trash strewn about or discarded fishing lines. (No fishing in park.)
In short, the Municipal Water Works park in Cortland is as different from Central Park as night is to day. Wildlife is the focal point and main attraction, whereas in all NYC parks, wildlife is apparently unwelcome inconvenience.
But weren't NYC parks originally created for harried New Yorkers to have peaceful respite and opportunity to connect with nature and wildlife? When did they become mere extension of the outside chaos and crowds of the city; the "concrete jungle?"
Give me a park where instead of movies, shows, concerts, sporting events and fireworks, the star attraction is still nature and wildlife.
I never really left New York City as much as it left me.
Friday, April 26, 2019
There has been very little good news regarding NYC park wildlife over the past year. Dead raccoons, dead goslings, dwindling food sources and dwindling wildlife all around.
Add to that, the campaign to criminalize all people who dare give a peanut to a squirrel or piece of bread to a duck.
The wildlife, "should go to Long Island to find food sources" as one Audubon representative and ban supporter recently put it.
Nevertheless, there is some good news.
Greta did not abandon or lose her eggs, after all. She is still on her nest.
The two geese photographed standing on rocks at the Jackie Onassis Reservoir earlier in the week (and mistaken for Hansel and Greta) are, in fact, new arrivals.
It's unusual for new geese to enter into territories of established nesting pairs and thus, such was not anticipated. One suspects the new geese may have been harassed from some other location by Geese Police or could be adult kids of Hansel and Greta from a few years ago. In either case, I am surprised Hansel has not chased the pair out.
There are a few plants and blades of grass struggling to grow through the barren landscape at the Reservoir now. But not enough to sustain two goslings, let alone a potential dozen. (Three nesting pairs in total.)
Matters are still grim, but it is at least good news that Greta and Hansel are OK. It would have been extremely ominous had Greta actually abandoned her eggs. Geese don't walk away from eggs unless something is seriously wrong -- which is why I was so worried for her.
In other parts of Central Park, wildlife matters continue on a downward spiral.
My friend, Liliana went to the row boat Lake today, hoping to feed her two special geese (Man and Lady) and two mallards that were there last week. But none of the birds were present. (This also suggests that Geese Police might be operating in Central Park again -- despite very few geese being there.)
Granted, Liliana is not able to walk around the entire lake. But she gets a pretty good view from the Ladies Pavilian. She saw no ducks or geese at all on the entire north side of lake.
That is shocking news as usually there is a lively group of mallards hanging around the Pavilion this time of year.
Also, only two squirrels observed and very few smaller birds.
Maybe the wildlife really is venturing over the bridges to Long Island, after all?
NYC Parks are clearly unwelcoming environments. Instead of red carpets, they roll out Geese Police vans, demolition squads, No Feeding signs and pesticides.
Hang tough, Greta, hang tough.
Thursday, April 25, 2019
This morning I wrote a high official in the Wildlife division of NYC Parks regarding the proposed Wildlife Feeding Ban. I share the letter here as both, a matter of record to this blog, as well as refute of arguments in support of the feckless ban.
It is vital to keep the pressure on NYC officials and the Mayor if we are serious about protecting what little remains of precious NYC Parks birds and squirrels.
The argument (put forth by an Audubon representative) that "The animals can go to Long Island" when essentially starved out of NYC parks is neither acceptable nor realistic. Squirrels and baby birds cannot fly or cross bridges.
It was suggested by a colleague that I write to you regarding the proposed Wildlife Feeding Ban in NYC Parks.
I moved to upstate N.Y. last year. But before doing so, I visited Central Park everyday for nearly a decade and documented thousands of hours of wildlife observations in a blog.
One of the reasons for leaving NYC was the often apathetic, dismissive and even cruel, callous attitudes towards NYC parks wildlife.
I speak of the deliberate gassings and slaughter of more than 6,000 resident Canada geese, in addition to nearly constant harassment and destruction of their nests and eggs.
The last Swan was harassed out of Central Park in the spring of 2014.
I understand that nearly all the raccoons in Central Park died last year and squirrel numbers are alarmingly low compared to recent past years. Friends report lower bird numbers in general.
I am going to first, summarize by points, why Feeding Ban Proposal must be rejected, both for the sake of wildlife protection and human welfare. (Later, in this letter, I will refute claims of those supporting ban.)
1-- Destruction of Wildlife Habitat and Natural Food Sources.
Others have pointed to replacement of fruit, nut and seed-bearing trees in parks with ornamental flora that does not sustain wildlife.
One example of this is destruction last year, of all vegetation that surrounds the Jackie Onassis Reservoir in Central Park. Foliage and grass previously there were important food sources for growing goslings, migratory and molting birds and other wildlife. Last summer 8 of 9 goslings perished at the Reservoir, all around the age of four weeks. If not the main cause for demise of goslings, lack of food sources had to be contributing factor, leaving them weak and unable to avoid predation.
(Baby birds are unable to fly out until three months of age, to forage food elsewhere. Molting birds in summer are also unable to fly out to find food.)
2-- Climate Change and Lethal Impacts of Severe Winters on Park Wildlife.
The winters of 2014 and 2015 were particularly severe and abnormal all along the North East, including, NYC. Thousands of waterfowl starved to death on iced-over lakes and ponds. The town of Southhampton in Long Island purchased large bags of cracked corn in effort to save dying ducks on their lakes.
Workers in Central Park told me of finding dead ducks around a frozen Harlem Meer.
Myself and a few others took to feeding starving MIGRATORY ducks, geese and coots on the then iced-over Jackie Onassis Reservoir twice a day. Tourists and even New Yorkers thought we were employees of the park!
"It's nice that the park feeds them!" we were told dozens of times.
Despite our efforts, many birds died anyway.
Imagine what this scene would be like were a feeding ban to pass?
Tourists would be viewing icy duck and goose graveyards.
The Jackie Onassis Reservoir is an important resting stop for thousands of migratory birds every year, as well as an actual wintering location for hundreds of migratory geese, ducks and coots.
Callously allowing migratory waterfowl to starve to death on iced-over watercourses should not be option for NYC parks -- especially at a location Park Rangers claim they "have no access to" for rescues.
Migratory birds, by federal law, are supposed to be protected!
3 --Negative Impacts on the Elderly, Disabled and Children/Families
It is mostly the elderly, disabled and young children who feed birds and squirrels in parks. These are people who cannot run marathons, take "tours and nature hikes," or stand on long lines for concerts, shows and movies.
I have a friend, Liliana, who is a stage four cancer victim and uses a walker to get around. She likes to sit down and feed ducks and geese in Central Park. (She was also one of the people who helped me save starving birds on icy Reservoir in 2015.)
Liliana had a letter published in the NY Daily News last month, opposing feeding ban.
She received a call two weeks ago from Christina Kim of the Mayor's office. Ms. Kim told Liliana that instead of feeding birds, she should "Go on a nature hike with birders" or "Volunteer at the WBF."
Such is truly insult to a disabled, elderly cancer victim.
Is this what the Mayor means by "Education?" - - Insulting seniors?
In addition to disrespect and insult to the infirm and elderly for whom feeding birds is often their only joy in life, a feeding ban would also be harmful to many city children whose only connection to animals and nature are the ducks in the park. One young mother told me her little girl "looked forward all week" to coming to Harlem Meer on weekends to feed the ducks. (They were not allowed pets in their apartment and could not afford trips to the country.) Are these the people parks seek to criminalize and punish?
Children learning sharing and compassion early in life are more likely to grow up to be generous, caring adults. By contrast, children hurling sticks and rocks at park wildlife are more likely to later become troubled teens and adults. Those are facts.
Arguments of Ban Supporters and Why They Need to be Rejected.
1-- "Bird and Squirrel Feeders are Responsible for Trash and Rats in Parks. "
This is a shameful example of scapegoating innocent people for failures of parks to do proper clean-up of debris. Bird feeders are not responsible for all the balls, balloons, bottles, diapers, fishing lines, old shoes and other garbage dumped in parks and lakes. Virtually ALL foods put out by birders are quickly consumed by the intended wildlife. Bread especially is devoured with barely a crumb left.
Moreover, to imply that there are hoards of people feeding wildlife and trashing parks is the worst of exaggeration and outright lie.
Less than 1% of people who go to parks feed wildlife.
2-- "Feeding Bread or Other Human Food Harms Wildlife and Causes Angel Wing."
Angel Wing occurs most frequently in domestic ducks and geese raised for meat or eggs. These birds are NOT fed bread or other human foods. Studies show the deformity is most often caused by genetic factors, high density crowding, lack of exercise and movement, stress, heat and too much protein in diet. (Bread is low in protein.)
In terms of Park wildlife, mallards are most frequently fed bread, and they rarely, if ever get Angel Wing.
This argument (though spread widely over the Internet) is completely bogus and refuted by scientific studies, evidence and observations. Though Angel Wing does occur sometimes in wild Canada geese, this is most likely due to lack of variable gene pool, exposure to chemicals in grass, stress, genetics or unknown factors.
Most research papers say, "more studies need to be done."
This past winter, swans in the UK started dying after a successful public "No Bread" campaign. Officials then requested people start feeding bread again. Better bread than starvation. It does no harm.
The fact is, people have been feeding bread to ducks, geese and swans for hundreds of years without ill effect.
3-- "Feeding Causes Overpopulation and Birds Not to Migrate"
Migratory patterns are established over thousands of years and are NOT impacted at all by human feeding! Despite feeding, I was able to predict within days when migratory ducks and geese would leave Central Park, (mid-March), as well as when goose parents and their goslings would depart. (When babies are 11-weeks-old.)
This argument bears no merit whatsoever.
Mr. XXXX, I submit that instead of seeking ways to shock the rest of the country with this absurd, reckless and cruel feeding ban, you should better equip Park Rangers with boats, nets and training for water bird rescues, along with access to the Jackie Onassis Reservoir for rescue of migratory birds. People should NOT have to helplessly watch innocent birds die on the water or ice in a world famous location.
I also submit that you should do a better job of picking up discarded fishing lines in parks that DO injure and harm wildlife, as well as addressing harm and injury done to park goers from speeding bikes and vicious crimes.
Senior citizens and children feedIng birds are the very LEAST of NYC Park problems.
Mayor deBlasio, Park Officials and other ban supporters should be utterly ashamed of themselves on this.
I thank God I moved out of NYC to a city that welcomes and cares for its park wildlife, as well as welcomes wildlife feeders. I never thought that when leaving NYC a year ago, I would still be fighting for its park wildlife 14 months later.
Tuesday, April 23, 2019
I am worried about Greta.
Nothing about this spring has been "normal" for she and her mate, Hansel, who returned to the Jackie Onassis Reservoir last month in order to once again nest.
It seemed at the time, a "hopeful" sign considering Hansel and Greta lost all five of their goslings last year when the babies were only a month old. (One suspects malnutrition being at least, a contributory, if not the main cause to the demise of the goslings, as all the grass and foliage necessary to sustain goslings had been removed from the landscape surrounding the Reservoir.)
But once again, the mated goose pair returned to a barren landscaped Reservoir with not so much as a blade of grass anywhere among the rocks at the East Side of Reservoir -- Greta's usual nesting spot.
The other Reservoir nesting pair, John and Mary did not return to the Reservoir until a couple of weeks ago, just prior to Mary actually nesting. Previous to that, the pair was observed grazing on the grass at Harlem Meer.
It is necessary for Canada goose hens to "calorie-load" prior to nesting as they barely eat anything for the month that they incubate their eggs.
But Hansel and Greta stayed mostly at the barren Reservoir where building "fat reserves" wasn't in the cards. Perhaps Greta anticipated the foliage blooming again with with the arrival of spring, but it wasn't to be. Apparently, the roots have been destroyed.
Both pairs nested much later than "normal" which is usually the last days of March or first days in April. John and Mary began nesting two weeks ago and Hansel and Greta only last week.
I speculated that it took them longer this year to build up the calorie requirements necessary for rigors of nesting.
But did Greta actually build up those necessary requirements at the grass and plant-empty Reservoir?
When photographed more than a week ago, Greta had hatched one egg.
But something about the photo was depressing. No nesting materials and just rock surrounding her. In fact, all the recent photos of Hansel and Greta exuded an air of forlorness, search and loss.
But maybe that was just my imagination? My "feelings?"
Laura, who usually shares photos and updates with me is not able to get to the Reservoir everyday due to work obligations. But she does check Instagram photos.
Two days ago, she found a "sunset" photo on Instagram showing, both Hansel and Greta standing on empty East Side Reservoir rocks with no nest or eggs in sight.
Laura thought that perhaps a recent storm had washed away Greta's eggs, but I don't think so. Mary's eggs were intact as of Saturday.
Yesterday, Laura requested a friend to check on Hansel and Greta at the Reservoir, but the geese were gone from the nest site. The friend did not walk around the entire Reservoir.
It's possible that the two geese are somewhere else on the Reservoir. Or it's possible they finally gave up on the hostile environment and flew out.
But I can't help having a "bad feeling" about it.
It all seems too Deja-vu....
Today, I checked back on an old blog post from five years ago, nearly to the day (April 30, 2014):
Camille and Brad had survived a brutal NYC winter in 2014 that saw the city receive more than 60 inches of snow. (Normal for NYC is 25 inches of snow a year.). I recall a park worker telling me he had found a number of dead ducks at a frozen Harlem Meer that winter.
But apparently, Camille did not have the calorie and fat reserves to survive the stresses of nesting. She died a week after laying six eggs. A little more than a week following her misfortune, another nesting goose perished at the Reservoir on May 10 shortly after laying eggs. (Also detailed in blog.)
And so, am I just being paranoid in worrying over Greta now?
Or is such worry based upon past experience?
I am desperately hoping to be wrong and Laura right. Maybe a storm washed away Greta's eggs. Maybe she and her mate, Hansel are perfectly fine and just took off after suffering still, another loss.
But the feelings are uneasy, the photos haunting and past blog posts foreboding.
And in light of everything else coming out from NYC parks these days, it is nearly impossible to be optimistic.
I can only hope Greta and her devoted mate are OK, and yet "hope" seems such anemic and powerless word.
In a recent NY1 interview, NYC Mayor deBlasio stated that he and NYC Parks "believe" there are adequate food resources for the wildlife in city parks.
In a phone conversation yesterday with a staffer at the Parks Commissioner's office, I was told it's the "feeling" of park officials that birds and squirrels have sufficient food sources.
Another caller to her Councilman yesterday, was told feeders will "probably" not be fined.
Beliefs, feelings and "probably" are not facts. It seems officials use these meaningless, ambiguous terms when lacking actual evidence to back up their claims.
However, it is FACT that migratory geese and ducks have starved to death on iced-over watercourses in city parks during rough winters.
It is FACT that man-made parks are designed for human activities to the detriment of natural food sources for wildlife.
It is FACT that all the foliage (a major food source for migratory geese and developing goslings) was destroyed and removed at the Jackie Onassis Reservoir in Central Park last year, seemingly causing 8 of 9 goslings to perish there.
Other "beliefs" that don't stand up to scrutiny are the claims that bread-feeding to birds causes "Angel Wing" in geese and that feeding squirrels causes them to "attack people."
Few studies have actually been conducted to prove exactly what causes Angel Wing in geese. What little information exists suggest genetic factors more than anything else -- with some studies suggesting a high protein diet contributing to condition. (Bread is not high in protein.)
But one thing for sure, were bread a major cause of Angel Wing, as claimed, it should be seen more frequently in mallards (who are fed more bread than geese), and in fact, rarely is.
Moreover, Angel Wing is usually evident in very young goslings only a few weeks old. Unless eating ONLY bread, it is highly unlikely that diet alone would cause that kind of damaging "birth defect" in so short a time.
Nevertheless, the feeding ban is not about what to feed wildlife. It's about banning ALL feeding -- including, so-called, "healthy foods."
It behooves the imagination to understand why some birders and rescuers support the harmful ban despite it not making ANY concessions for their requested "exceptions."
Would one buy a house or rent an apartment without a written agreement spelling out terms and conditions? Would Congress Members "support" bills making no concessions to their requests and demands? One thinks not.
We are truly down to the wire now. The proposal now sits on the desks of Park Commissioners, just waiting to be signed.
Please call Commissioner, Mitchell Silver today at (212) 360-1305 to express opposition to ban and Deputy Commissioner, Liam Kavanagh at (212) 360-1307.
And don't buy into their beliefs, feelings and probablys.
"Just the facts" as Sergeant Friday used to say.
Dead Birds are facts. Beliefs and feelings are not.
Sunday, April 21, 2019
This past Friday's edition of the New York Times finally covered the proposed wildlife feeding ban in NYC parks. -- But it may be too little too late.
( "It's Eastertime and the Duck Rescuers are Ready" https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/19/nyregion/ducks-city-parks-.html )
This important article illustrates just some of the likely negative consequences of the reckless ban that the NYC Parks Department and Mayor seek to impose on New Yorkers and parks' vulnerable wildlife.
Abandoned domestic ducks are, of course, not wildlife.
These ducks cannot fly or "forage" like wild ducks and their nutritional needs are greater than those of wild waterfowl. Should the feeding ban pass, these birds are essentially doomed as virtually all depend upon human support, especially in winter.
What has been so stunning and disappointing throughout this struggle are the number of rescue people, birders and even some feeders who support the ban.
There seems to be this naive and even elitist belief that the ban will not apply to them.
During the recent hearing and comment testimonies, a number of birders and rescuers said that they supported the ban, but that they themselves should be exempt because they "only feed nutritious foods" or they only used food in order to rescue.
This is like a dog owner arguing in favor of Pooper Scooper laws,
"But not for my dog." Or one arguing in favor of wind turbines, "But not in my backyard."
Such arguments are exercises in contradiction and elitism and tend to carry little weight with decision makers. Indeed the proposed rule makes NO EXCEPTIONS. Not for rescuers, not for birders and not for feeders supporting dumped domestic ducks in parks.
The proposal was never about what to feed or under what circumstances. It is an outright BAN and it would apply to everyone and under all circumstances. (No allowance even for severe weather.)
That many birders, rescuers and even Animal Rights people failed to support the effort to defeat this cruel and far-reaching proposal speaks to not only, naivete, but certain arrogance. Most of all, it speaks to misunderstanding of the facts.
One has to suspect most ban supporters were not around in city parks when so many ducks, geese and other waterfowl starved to death on icy lakes during the Polar Vortex of 2015. -- A winter when thousands of water birds perished in the North East.
(It is not pleasant to watch animals starve to death. It is something one never forgets.)
Now, in their zeal to beat down and punish "stupid" people feeding bread or crackers in parks, they condemn many animals to starve from squirrels, to goslings, to domestic ducks and many others as man-made parks are not created to provide food sources for wildlife. On the contrary, many natural food sources (such as foliage at Jackie Onassis Reservoir) have been deliberately removed or destroyed.
Thus, those rescuers, birders and even feeders who supported ban have argued against their own interests and efforts. ( i.e."self-sabotage.") They will be handed tickets and fines just as anyone else.
It is unlikely that Ms. Zafonte (profiled in article) will continue feeding after paying hefty fines and threatened with jail time.
And that will be very bad news for the three domestic ducks at the 59th St Pond in Central Park that she has been feeding for some time and who are reliant on her.
A pox on all the houses that supported this draconian, reckless and cruel measure that will ultimately harm both, animals in parks as well as the caring humans who tried to help and save them.
Friday, April 19, 2019
Treasure your photographs. One day they may be all you have."
I saw the above quote on a Facebook post yesterday. I imagine it was meant to convey the importance of family and friends.
But it could also apply to park wildlife.
I realize that so many photographs I have are of animals that no longer exist in Central Park.
The last swan (whom I had named, "Hector") was harassed out of Harlem Meer in Central Park in the spring of 2014. None have been seen in CP since.
At one time, several swan families lived on the Boat Lake in Central Park. I have photos of my daughter feeding them in early 1990's.
" Treasure your photographs. "
I also have many photographs of Central Park raccoons. Entire families of raccoons from Harlem Meer to the south Pond. I even have a photo of a mama raccoon nursing her juvenile baby from only a few years ago.
Now mama and baby are both dead along with all the other raccoon families of Central Park.
Perhaps this 2017 article from the New York Post helps explain why:
New York City has in fact, "waged war" against many park animals in recent years. Swans, raccoons and certainly, Canada geese of which six thousand have been killed over the past decade.
But where do all these "wars" lead? What is the end goal?
Parks entirely devoid of birds and other wildlife?
One of my friends was at the Boat Lake in Central Park yesterday.
She noted "two ducks" and "two geese" on a lake that would normally this time of year contain dozens of waterfowl.
She also noted few birds at all around the Ladies Pavilion in Central Park - a spot normally teaming with all kinds of small birds this time of year. And she also saw only one wary squirrel.
Mayor deBlasio said in a recent interview, that the city is doing "all it can to eradicate rats in city parks." But what else is the city "eradicating" in the process?
A Manhattan friend lamented on FB yesterday, all the animals who perished in the Notre Dame cathedral fire in Paris -- and all the animals dying around the world.
But what about the animals vanishing under our noses and being pushed out of New York City parks? As the saying goes, "Think globally, act locally."
If everyone did that, it would be a far different world.
It would be a world in which we didn't have to look at old photographs to remember what was, but is no more.
Wednesday, April 17, 2019
Sometimes I have a hard time believing I am still in the same state containing New York City.
The small city in which I live now seems to have such a different attitude towards animals; in fact, towards life in general.
Animal stories are often featured on the local news in Cortland, NY. The wildlife in the local park is not only provided food by families, but by park employees as well. (Salt sticks are even put out for deer.) Roads near the park contain,"Duck Crossing" signs and pets are generally well cared for with few strays.
In many ways, Cortland, NY is like throwback to 1950's America.
Most of the houses in this quaint and friendly "railroad" (and now college) town were built in the late 1800's or early 1900's. (Some are now rented out to college students.)
Cortland is not a booming city. Most of the people who live in Cortland work in nearby Syracuse or Ithaca, are retired or go to school here.
You won't find skyscrapers in Cortland or people in designer clothes. (Despite frigid, snow-filled winters, I have yet to see one Canada goose coat!) There are small shopping plazas around Cortland allowing one to actually live here without a car. But most people drive.
Cortland is, in essence, very blue-collar, "Middle America." It's equally divided between Republican and Democrat, Conservative and Liberal, though most people are squarely in the political middle. There seem to be no extremes. There is no pretentiousness.
I like Cortland. It reflects well who I am. It reminds me of 1950's Austin, Texas where my mother and I spent six months when I was a child. I loved Austin. It was a fun-loving, smallish city and much more "liberal" than NYC; we didn't even wear uniforms in Catholic school! I hated having to return to NYC at only 7-years-old then and cried on the train ride home.
And yet, more than a year after finally moving away from NYC decades later, I find myself in political battle with it over its proposed, "Wildlife Feeding Ban in city parks." (How cruel and bizarre is this -- especially compared to other parts of the country?)
Seems as if I had a "love/hate relationship" with NYC all along --which ironically still continues to this day.
Yesterday's rally in City Hall (NYC) was well attended, with good visuals and excellent speakers, including one Bronx City Councilman supporting the "ban the ban" rally.
But NYC media failed to cover the rally and reportedly, Mayor deBlasio walked by at one point and didn't even acknowledge.
Why is none of this surprising? Par for the course, one might say.
My friend, Liliana tried to attend rally, but her car ride was late and she had trouble getting through security at City Hall. (They must have suspected the 75-year-old cancer victim was hiding guns or bombs in her walker.)
But Liliana wasn't upset. She has dealt with far worse than this in the forms of aggressive cancer and a Mayor's representative smugly telling her she should "volunteer at the Wild Bird Fund" (a highly physical undertaking) or "take nature hikes with birders." The Mayor seems to have as much regard for senior citizens as he does for pigeons, geese, ducks and squirrels.
Meanwhile, at the still (plant) barren Jackie Onassis Reservoir in Central Park, three determined goose pairs attempt to bring forth new life. But will their efforts once again meet with defeat and death as they did last year?
Thankfully, I won't be in New York City to personally witness.
It's 14 months since I left New York City and I don't miss a damn thing about it -- with the lone exceptions of a few known and treasured geese trying to buck the odds and a beloved friend, still too, battling the odds.
To quote Simon and Garfunkle, "I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains."
Tuesday, April 16, 2019
Today is the day of the City Hall rally to protect NYC park wildlife and the caring people who feed birds and squirrels.
I am unfortunately 5 hours away in Cortland, NY. But my friend, Liliana is there, frail and fragile as she is.
When one considers what Liliana has been through over the past two years, it's a wonder she is still standing: Surgery, radiation, hundreds of chemo treatments, tests and injections. Stuff that would render most star athletes to their knees.
An immigrant from Romania, Liliana, 75, has known poverty, hardship and hunger much of her life.
Such have been the primary motivations for her compassion and empathy for struggling and hungry wildlife in Central Park.
"I know what hunger is," she has said to me many times in her thick Romanian accent without going into details.
And, "What good is the life without purpose?"
Liliana was there for me every night during the brutal, "Polar Vortex" winter of 2015 when we struggled to save starving migratory ducks and geese at the then, iced-over Jackie Onassis Reservoir.
Passers-by thought we were employees of the park.
"It's nice that the park feeds them," they would say to us.
That only they knew now that city parks and the Mayor are actually determined to criminalize the very people who feed hungry wildlife in parks. People like Liliana.
I don't know that any press will cover the rally. I know that Roxanne Delgado (organizer of the effort to oppose feeding ban) has sent out press releases and worked tirelessly to defeat the cruel and feckless proposal from day one.
But these days, media seems only interested in the latest Trump tweet. Some people campaigning for the rights of pigeons or squirrels to exist seems like joke to them.
And yet it is about so much more than that.
It's about all the remaining wildlife in city parks.
It's about the elderly, infirm and often disabled people who cannot run marathons or "take hikes," but who deeply empathize and connect with the birds or squirrels of city parks. People willing to tredge out in all kinds of weather to ensure no one goes hungry.
When did things like empathy, kindness, connection and purpose go out of style? When did they become actions to criminalize?
One could argue they are the very qualities that define us as decent human beings.
This morning Liliana called me to read some prepared remarks she wrote, should she be interviewed by a reporter.
Let's hope she gets opportunity to say them.
Monday, April 15, 2019
We are down to crunch time, folks.
Whether the dreadful anti-wildlife-feeding proposal passes or not, depends largely on what happens over the next few days.
Specifically, at tomorrow's rally on the steps of City Hall (1 to 2 pm).
Turnout is critical, as well as decent media coverage.
I am not in New York City anymore so don't have sway over events.
A woman, Roxanne Delgado, of Bronx Animal Rights Electors is organizing the rally and has worked her butt off on this issue for months.
It appears that those in power thought it was going to be easy to pass this draconian, punitive and heartless measure into "rule" with little fanfare or notice. Indeed, they did not even go through the City Council who most assuredly, would have rejected it.
It's easy to understand why city parks officials, the Mayor and others would think this way.
After all, little media coverage and protest occurred when thousands of Canada geese were captured from NYC parks and sent for gassing or slaughter over the past decade.
Few, if any appeared to have questioned or critiqued the destruction of all trees and foliage that surrounded the Jackie Onassis Reservoir. It appears as barren wasteland over the past year-- though containing mounds of plastic trash, both, in the water and on the rocks.
And other than published press releases from NYC Parks stating some raccoons died from Distemper last year, nothing quite explains the deaths of more than 300 raccoons from Central Park in just a few months; its seemingly entire raccoon population.
So yes, it seems in light of all this, a simple rule change would likely not garner attention or protest. (Of course, they would have to elicit "Public Comment" and hold a public hearing on the matter, but such were just formalities.)
Early media reports suggested the Ban Proposal was a slam dunk and would "go into effect this summer."
But, not so fast.
People did comment -- almost 90% in opposition to ban. People showed up to protest at the hearing. A petition with more than 4,000 signatures of opposition was delivered to the Parks Commissioner and letters of protest have been published in newspapers.
Mayor deBlasio has even been confronted with the issue on radio and TV interviews. His reasons for supporting the ban are weak and feckless at best. He deflects from the real issue of scant food resources for park wildlife to blaming bird feeders for trash and rats in parks. He tries to say ban is about "Education," but punitive rules and laws aren't passed if a goal is merely, "education."
The Mayor made it sound as if city parks were over-run by hoards of wildlife feeders who littered parks with all kinds of debris from balls to balloons to bottles to old shoes. 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. (I rarely saw other feeders during the thousands of times I went to Central Park.)
But most of the people who DO feed are senior citizens, the disabled and families. People the Parks Dept and Mayor now want to label criminals.
Yes, the bureaucratic and political officials thought they would have an easy slam dunk with this -- and they still might have.
But this time there were more than just a few people willing to stand up and say, "No, not this time. Not ever!"
Killing animals is apparently one thing. Taking away a simple and basic human right is something else. (The right to feed and peacefully interact with birds or squirrels in a park. -- a right people have been enjoying for centuries.)
The City Hall rally is tomorrow. It is only for one hour. (1 to 2 pm.)
If there is way for you to attend, please do so.
Roxanne and others who have worked so hard on this need your support.
Most of all, the remaining and often struggling wildlife in city parks need you to be voice for them.
Saturday, April 13, 2019
When leaving New York City more than a year ago, I knew matters were going downhill for city parks' wildlife.
But I never imagined the amount of destruction and loss that would occur in just one short year, especially in the park with which I was most familiar: Central Park.
Last summer, virtually all of Central Park's raccoons sickened and died. I have constantly asked friends, but not one has seen a raccoon since last August.
NYC Parks claimed some of the raccoons died from Distemper.
But how does any disease kill virtually all -- especially animals living in different locations of a 843 acre park?
At the same time raccoons were dying left and right in Central Park, 8 of the 9 only goslings to hatch in CP last summer also perished. This is something highly unusual for Canada geese (who are exemplary parents in protecting their young), especially in a place with few natural predators.
It seems no one questioned deaths of the goslings and so no press releases were issued on them.
Then there is the question of declining duck and squirrel numbers in Central Park as their numbers too, are dropping without noted question or cause.
Many who are familiar with NYC parks claim that fruit, nut and seed-bearing trees and plants have been cut down in favor of more ornamental flora.
I can't personally speak to that, but for certain, ALL the vegetation, trees and foliage that surrounded the Jackie Onassis Reservoir was completely demolished with nothing in its place. (The plants and grass were important food sources for goslings who cannot fly, and other waterfowl and animals.)
One Manhattan resident I recently spoke with about the Reservoir said, "Don't worry. The foliage will all grow back in the spring."
We are well into spring now and the Reservoir is as bare as it's been for the past year.
I don't know what park goers tell themselves when witnessing all the destruction, disappearances and deaths happening under their noses (more than 300 raccoons perished in CP last summer). But as much as we are advised to "think positively" and " never judge or criticize," there are times when people need to start paying attention and opening their mouths to question and critique.
That time is especially now considering the hideous and cruel "proposal" that the Mayor seeks to make law: Criminalization of all Bird and Squirrel feeders in city parks. A rule that could potentially land senior citizens and others feeding birds in jail.
Really important for people to find voice to oppose this bitter and draconian measure that appears to be designed to starve remaining wildlife out of city parks and punish people of compassion.
Yesterday, my friend, Laura Taylor shared with me, report and photos from the Jackie Onassis Reservoir in Central Park:
Despite barren surroundings and mounds of trash and debris in water, four Canada geese have once again returned to their nest site. But only one of the pair (John and Mary) so far have eggs.
Last year was disastrous for both pairs.
John and Mary lost their first batch of eggs, nested again and then lost 3 of 4 of their month-old goslings.
Hansel and Greta lost all five of their babies who were also around a month old.
For all the (previously healthy) goslings to die at that age makes one suspect starvation as cause under the circumstances.
And yet, despite the deliberate gassings and slaughter of more than six thousand NYC geese over the past decade, the harassment and egg destruction of many hundreds more, hope and determination spring eternal.
But not without effort, action and sacrifice.
It is hard to imagine positive outcome for the eggs and potential goslings, Mary now sits on at the barren Jackie Onassis Reservoir based on last year's losses.
But if she and her long time mate, John (as well as Hansel and Greta) are not giving up, neither should we.
Hoping for a huge turnout for Tuesday's anti-proposal rally and loud voices.
The people who support park wildlife are not mindless criminals -- and they have voices!
Friday, April 12, 2019
This coming Tuesday (the 16th), a 1pm to 2 pm rally will take place at City Hall to protest New York City's and the Mayor's push to criminalize bird and squirrel feeders in city parks.
This is a battle for wildlife's right to exist in city parks as well as the right of people to enjoy a long treasured and peaceful past-time of "feeding ducks in the park."
In a city plagued by so many real problems from violent crimes, drugs, gangs, trash pick-up (especially in parks) and a multitude of others, that city leadership would focus on something like this is truly mind-boggling and irrational (unless goal is to empty parks of virtually all wildlife).
Primarily targeted are senior citizens or disabled people feeding birds in parks.
People who cannot run marathons, take nature hikes or do hard, physical labor.
A recent poll by New York 1 showed 81% of New Yorkers were opposed to the proposed rule. (Shame on the 19% who voted for it.). That is strong and clear majority.
Public comments on the NYC Parks website were overwhelmingly opposed (87%) to the draconian proposal, as were people who showed up to the public hearing to testify.
A couple of weeks ago, petition was delivered to city parks office with more than 4,OOO signatures in opposition to the ban.
Yet, even with all this, the Mayor went on television a few nights ago and arrogantly continued to imply that bird feeders were responsible for all the trash dumped in parks as well as rats.
From the beginning, this has been a campaign of despicable demonization and belittlement of some of NYC's most vulnerable and defenseless citizens: The elderly, the poor, the disabled and even children and families.
Not only does the Mayor scapegoat and blame them for trashing parks, but he also insults their intelligence when repeatedly saying they need to be "educated."
The one who needs "educating" is the Mayor himself for disrespecting and ignoring the will of his constituents.
Constituents who also care about protecting and safeguarding the little of what remains of city park wildlife. Wildlife for whom most "natural food sources" have been deliberately and callously cut down and removed in what (in conjunction with feeding ban) assuredly amounts to a starvation campaign against innocent animals by the city of New York.
And though when asked, proponents of feeding ban claim displaced park wildlife will "travel to Long Island to find food resources," the reality is that squirrels, baby birds and any still existing raccoons can't walk over bridges.
Nor do most New Yorkers want all natural wildlife to "travel" and disappear from the parks of NYC. Such is certain!y not what Olmsted and other park founders had in mind. Parks were designed to provide New Yorkers with peaceful respite and connection with nature and wildlife.
It is sad that with all the public opposition already expressed for this cruel, draconian and feckless rule that a demonstration still be necessary, but it is.
No matter how otherwise busy, please make time in your schedule to attend this critical one-hour rally.
This is to stand up for and defend the rights of squirrels and birds to still exist in NYC parks, as well as the right of the people to care about and in some cases, nourish and sustain them -- especially through harsh winters.