NYC Parks Department is Considering Ban on Feeding Wildlife – Public Hearing March 1st

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


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
Email. You can email comments to
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:


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 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.

* * *
Previously at Washington Square Park Blog:

Should all NYC Parks be Certified Wildlife Habitats?


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2 thoughts on “NYC Parks Department is Considering Ban on Feeding Wildlife – Public Hearing March 1st”

  1. Thanks for posting this. As always, these hearings are held in god-knows-where country and at hours when most people cannot possible attend. In this tech age, they could easily hook up a skype town hall and/or other e-hearing but instead they force people to choose between keeping their job or speaking their truth. I went on line and posted this — I hope it helps. I am so furious with this trend toward the demonization of humane interaction with animals.

    The use of “rat management” is the most popular justification sited by Parks and other organizations when the complex and critical issue of wildlife care and balance is truly at stake. Very recently, the cancer-causing chemical “Round-up” has been re-introduced into “weed management” in Prospect and other NYC parks simply because this reduces the expenditure previously allocated to park workers. Those workers manually weeded and rid the park of sprawling or unwanted growth with landscaping techniques that require compensation. Using “rat management” as a scape goat for reckless and gross negligence in the care and management of our park’s amazing wildlife – is more of the same. Prospect Park is blessed with a variety of amazing wildlife including ducks, geese, possums, raccoons and an array of migratory and domestic smaller birds. While we continue to pour hazardous waste into the air and water, these parks provide a tiny refuge. Instead of increasingly converting park spaces that host wildlife into for-profit-event arenas that invite enormous foot traffic and threaten the wildlife in those areas (case-in-point the Lollapalooza staged in the same area where migratory birds were just returning) — these spaces need to be protected and cared for. Instead of massive ear-splitting rock concerts, an effort could be made to provide wildlife learning areas for children and teens as well as protect our wildlife for future generations. In addition, fines or punishment for feeding wildlife should be replaced with signs that educate the public as to what can be and cannot be fed to wildlife. Often ignorance is the cause for littering or leaving food that later ends up being scavenged by rats. Punishing children for feeding dried corn to ducks or peanuts to squirrels creates a toxic divide between children who desire to interact with wildlife and children who are isolated and ignorant of that interaction. Children and teens who interact with wildlife have proven to grow up into adults who seek careers or have values that concern the wellbeing of our planet. It creates an extremely hostile park environment if/when children — and adults — are being punished for an age-old tradition of “feeding the birds” or the squirrels. A tradition that has long brought delight and humane understanding between human beings and our friends, the wildlife in our midst. @johannaclear

  2. I am a N.Y.S. licensed wildlife rehabilitator and realize the dilemma of both arguments listed. Many well meaning people feed waterfowl ie. Canada Geese white bread which lacks the nutrients needed in their diet. Sometimes these birds develop a condition called “Angel wings” as a result of poor nutrition from bread etc. This prevents geese from taking flight which prevents migration as well as making the birds easy prey for predators; dogs, coyotes, humans etc.
    Also, peanuts and sunflower seeds are not the best choices for squirrels that may consume large enough quantities in their diet. They can develop a condition known as MBD (metabolic bone disease) which hinders their ability to
    process nutrients in their diet.
    I believe that plants, shrubs, and trees that provide flowers, seeds, berries and various nut sources should be planted throughout parks, and fields in an effort to help sustain wildlife especially during the Winter months. If wildlife have natural food and shelter resources available to them, then people can enjoy and hopefully respect all creatures great and small throughout the year.


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