The New York City Parks Department is considering a “prohibition” on feeding our feathered and four-legged friends at NYC parks and will hold a public hearing on March 1st. This ban appears to be at the urging of Mayor DeBlasio’s “WILDNYC” initiative. The problem when so-called ‘experts’ weigh in is they often, well, miss the forest for the trees.
Engaging With and Assisting Wildlife in Urban Public Spaces
At Washington Square and many other parks, engaging with the wildlife is part of the park experience and becomes enriching and educational for many, including children.* The idea that squirrels and pigeons can “forage” for food in most parks, to sustain themselves entirely, is typically incorrect. Park redesigner George Vellonakis told me that it would be another ten years before trees planted during the redesign bear any nuts for the squirrels to eat. Even then, it is not going to sustain all the squirrels in the park. Any bird seed or nuts left by people is consumed. People at times leave stale bread in some places – I agree that is not a good idea but that is not cause for a prohibition of something that has been part of our public space experience for 100 years, if not longer. And any problem with rats, which, of course is how they are framing this partially, is because of garbage – real garbage – not being picked up or contained properly.
First, more on the public hearing March 1st:
The Parks Department public hearing will be held Friday, March 1st, 12 noon, Pelham Fritz Recreation Center, 18 Mount Morris Park West between West 122nd Street and Mount Morris Park West, located in Marcus Garvey Park.
Comments can also be submitted by mail or online. See additional ways to submit comments below.
I am not sure how a Parks Department hearing works. Will the Parks Department actually listen to the public? This has not been their strong point. There already is a rule on the ‘books’ that is loosely enforced, if at all. What’s the big deal? Maybe they should ask Simcha Felder for advice. His proposed ban on feeding pigeons died a quiet death 12 years ago after loud public outcry.
A wildlife advocate writes:
Guilty of a crime?
If the proposed new law of New York City Parks, which is to prohibit the feeding of wildlife in Parks, goes into effect, it will make feeding wildlife an illegal offense. A nut given to a squirrel by a child…”sorry dear, that is against the law”, or a few seeds scattered to birds by kindly people, can land them a hefty fine, plus a nasty scolding from the NYC Parks Department Police.
Quality of life will be affected all around!
From the NYC Parks Department:
Hearing on Proposal to Prohibit Wildlife Feeding in Parks — March 1, 2019
NYC PARKS ANNOUNCES PUBLIC HEARING AND OPPORTUNITY FOR COMMENT FOR PROPOSED NEW PARKS RULES
Press Release can be viewed here.
NYC Parks announced it will hold a public hearing on March 1, 2019 for a proposed amendment to § 1-04(g) of Chapter 1 of Title 56 of the Rules of the City of New York, regarding feeding animals in parks. New Yorkers have an opportunity to submit comment on the proposed new rules; comment submissions will be accepted until the morning of the hearing, prior to its start.
From the City Rules website on the proposed amendment to the rules:
NYC Parks proposes to amend § 1-04(g) of Chapter 1 of Title 56 of the Rules of the City of New York. Under the amended rule, individuals will be prohibited from feeding all animals, including squirrels, pigeons, and other birds, in areas under the jurisdiction of NYC Parks.
The purpose of this proposed rule is to:
- Reduce food sources available to rats and other rodents, which are attracted to all types of food in properties maintained by NYC Parks.
- Prevent harmful interactions with animals in NYC Parks properties. Wildlife accustomed to feeding lose their wariness of humans and may exhibit aggressive behavior. Animals exhibiting aggressive behavior may then have to be lethally removed and tested for disease.
- Support the efforts of New York City’s WildlifeNYC campaign to raise public awareness about urban wildlife.
- Promote compliance with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s guidance, which advises that wildlife feeding disturbs the healthy balance between wildlife populations and their habitats.
- Prevent the transmission of disease that occurs when animals congregate around feeding areas. In these areas, food may be contaminated with feces, saliva, and urine, promoting the spread of diseases. These diseases are often fatal to animal populations and some may be spread to humans. For example, a canine distemper outbreak recently led to the deaths over 300 raccoons in New York City’s parks.
- Support healthy wildlife nutrition and behavior. Food given to wildlife does not contain the nutrients needed by New York City’s wildlife and deters them from seeking the natural foods—like insects and plants—with nutrients they need. Young animals fed by park patrons may not develop properly and may lose the instincts needed (such as hunting and foraging) to survive on their own.
- Reduce the maintenance burden on NYC Parks staff responsible for maintaining a safe and clean environment for park patrons.
- Promote compliance with existing prohibition on feeding in NYC Parks properties.
Clarify § 1-04(g) of the NYC Parks rules
Anyone can comment on the proposed rules by:
Website. You can submit comments to NYC Parks through the NYC rules website at http://rules.cityofnewyork.us.
Email. You can email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mail. You can mail comments to:
Darci Frinquelli, Assistant Counsel
The New York City Department of Parks & Recreation
The Arsenal, Central Park
830 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10065
Fax. You can fax comments to 917-849-6742.
Speak at the hearing:
LOCATION OF THE PUBLIC HEARING:
Friday, March 1st, 12 noon. Pelham Fritz Recreation Center, 18 Mount Morris Park West between
West 122nd Street and Mount Morris Park West, located in Marcus Garvey Park.
(note: will add in subway directions, or if anyone knows, please chime in…)
By speaking at the hearing. Anyone who wants to comment on the proposed rule at the public hearing must sign up to speak. You can sign up before the hearing by calling Darci Frinquelli at 212-360-1383 or emailing email@example.com. You can also sign up in the hearing room before the hearing begins on March 1 at noon. You can speak for up to three minutes.
Online comments are here.
Please show up!
Nikola Tesla used to feed the pigeons at Bryant Park.
*It is worth reading the paper, “The Pigeon Paradox: Dependence of Global Conservation on Urban Nature,” an academic paper that shows how important interacting with wildlife in urban places is for children and influences how they later interact with the natural environment as adults.
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Previously at Washington Square Park Blog:
Should all NYC Parks be Certified Wildlife Habitats?