Washington Square Park Maintenance Issues Remain Unaddressed, City Opts To Place Ineffective and Hawk-Killing Rodenticide in Park (See Update: Rodenticide Removed!)

Updated!

Overflow trash in open top containers

8:24 p.m. — Good news! Roger Paw blogger wrote in to say that the bait boxes have been removed! See more info from that blog here. Now, if the park maintenance issues can be addressed…

Original post follows —

Washington Square Park has been rodenticide-free for awhile – but no longer. Rodenticide bait traps have been placed in locations in the park. (I had a feeling this was coming.)

Throughout New York City this year, Red-tailed hawks have been poisoned by “secondary poisoning” (eating a poisoned rat). Rodenticide is not the answer. Proper maintenance of trash is the only solution —  this has been proven again and again, and yet, at Washington Square, containment of the park’s trash is a serious problem. This is a Parks Department maintenance issue and also education issue of park users. However, if trash cans are full and not emptied, that compounds the problem.

The latest from Hawk cam chat member City Woman who writes:

Many devoted hawk watchers spent the last few weeks writing and calling various City officials concerning plans we learned of to put rat poison in Washington Square Park. Unfortunately, we learned yesterday that our pleas fell on deaf ears as evidence of the lack of commitment to a poison-free sanitation plan for the park was revealed by posts from photographer/blogger Roger_Paw.

The only real control of rodents comes from proper sanitation. What is so disappointing and frustrating about the Parks Department decision is that there is so much room for improvement in this park. To even think of risking the life of the hawks, who are seen in the park almost daily and get many of their meals there, through the secondary poisoning that can occur when a non-target animal eats a poisoned rat is disgraceful. Their decision shows no real commitment to getting to the root of the problem; they are only going for the quick temporary fix.

Bobby and Rosie, Washington Square’s Red-tailed Hawks

The pictures were taken in the park this past Saturday by a member of Stop the Poison (STP), a group formed to oppose the use of poisons in our parks.

Currently, almost all trash cans in Washington Square Park have open tops. If, the trash is not removed by evening or tops are not put on the cans, there is an open invitation to rats. In addition, a walk through the park, reveals almost no signage about proper disposal of food and the reasons why it is needed.

Washington Square Park could be a perfect location to show how proper sanitary methods can decrease the rodent population, if not completely, at least substantially, without the use of poison.

Suggestions made to NYC Parks Department officials by Stop The Poison:

Solar powered waste compactors (as used in Philadelphia and other locations)
Rat-proof garbage cans
Rodent-repellent trash bags
Summonses for littering
Carry in, Carry out waste policy (bring your lunch or snack with you; take your garbage out with you)
Revision of landscaping that is conducive to rat tunnels

Please ask your readers to insist that a commitment be demonstrated to make the park a model of excellence in bringing all possible resources and expertise to bear rather than resorting to toxic poisons that make each meal a lethal game of chance for our precious wildlife.

“Discarded trash everywhere! In flower beds, under benches, under trees … accumulated for days!”

In addition, a reader, Brant, sent in this comment earlier in the week:

In Washington Square Park this morning (October 6, 2012) and found it so disgusting ! Discarded trash everywhere ! In flower beds, under benches, under trees, everywhere!!!!
The people responsible for cleaning the park are incredibly inept!
We are not talking about trash that accumulated overnight but for many days!
Not only that for a few blocks on each side of University Place, not one garbage pail! Not one!
What will be done? I will contact immediately 311, and for what it’s worth, complain to them as well as the Sanitation Department!

Washington Square East

“Rats” author (and NY resident) Robert Sullivan very clear on how ineffective rodenticide is

I’ve written before on this blog about the problem of rodenticide in our city parks — seven or eight new york city hawks have died this year alone – and would like to reiterate the following (which the Parks Department should know):

Author Robert Sullivan, who studied rats in the city and wrote about his discoveries in his book, “Rats: Observations on the History & Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants,” states that removing garbage and the rats’ food source is the key, even tho’ no one considers that was the “sexier” solution – it IS the solution.

Sullivan consulted with David E. Davis, the “founding father of modern rat studies” who determined:

“when rats are killed off, the pregnancy rates of the surviving rats double and the survivors rapidly gain weight. The rats that survive become stronger. ‘Actually, the removal merely made room for more rats,’ Davis wrote.”

When I told reader Brant that the city’s Parks Department was putting poison out, he said:

Rat poison is the easy way out !
It’s again, putting a band-aid on the problem !  One must be pro-active and they, are reactive !

So true.

This would be an opportunity for new Parks Commissioner Veronica White to take a position her predecessor, Adrian Benepe, would not. Instead of focusing on privatizing public parks, how about creating better models of our existing ones?

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What you can DO; Suggestions from City Woman and Stop the Poison:

Following are some of the NYC Parks Department officials people can write or call:

Veronica M. White, NYC Parks Commissioner, Veronica.White@parks.nyc.gov
First Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh, liam.kavanagh@parks.nyc.gov phone #212-360-1307
William T. Castro, NYC Dep’t of Parks, Manhattan Borough Commissioner: william.castro@parks.nyc.gov; #212-408-0201
Namshik Yoon, Chief of Operations, Namshik.Yoon@parks.nyc.gov; #212-408-0212
Ralph Musolino, Park Manager, Manhattan District 1 & 2; Ralph.Musolino@parks.nyc.gov; #212-797-3142

And here are some things individuals can do to help:
IF YOU WANT TO SAVE OUR HAWKS: Do Not Use Mouse and Rat Poisons, Pellets or Blocks on Your Property
1.) Tell your building management to use covered, latching trash containers and traps instead of poison.
2.) Educate your local institutions and merchants to do the same.
3.) Ask government officials to support a ban on the sale of anticoagulant rodenticides (five California cities have done so).
4.) CONTACT STOPTHEPOISON@AOL.COM to find out what else you can do.

Photos 1 & 3: Stop The Poison

Middle Photo: Bobby & Rosie in Washington Square Park, Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012. Credit: Roger_Paw Blog

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The Alleged “Cure” Is Worse Than The Disease: Why NYC Ought to Stop Spraying Toxic Pesticides — Central Park/Upper West Side to Be Sprayed Early Friday Morning

Updated

Should we be killing lady bugs?

My first foray into grassroots activism in New York City was in year 2000 when I first became aware of the mass pesticide spraying being conducted to allegedly stop the spread of West Nile virus. I read an article in the New York Times about the effects this spraying would have on the ecosystem, down to the smallest insects. I later learned about the problems the pesticide had on human health but honestly it was the wildlife and the insects that first got my attention and my concern. I went to a meeting and immediately became involved in the No Spray Coalition and, for the last 12 years I have been involved, through our lawsuit against the City of New York, media work, organizing, and on-the-ground activism.

Year 2000: Pesticide spraying of pregnant women and kids on streets of Harlem – video shown in federal court and all news channels

Via the No Spray Coalition’s attempt to get a TRO (temporary restraining order) to STOP the spraying in 2000, that year in federal court, our lawyers showed footage (shot by two volunteers who followed the trucks) of one of the spray trucks careening through Harlem with its toxic brew covering kids, a pregnant woman, people walking out on the street with no warning. That evening, this footage and news of the law suit was shown on every New York City news channel.

The spraying has gone on year after year since then, it gets less attention each year, and less media coverage – that does not mean that it is less problematic. Members of the No Spray Coalition, including myself, met with the City’s Department of Health in January of this year, the final one of two meetings that they agreed to, mandated by the court. This was a result of the settlement of our lawsuit in which the City made some concessions to the health effects of pesticides. You’d never know it from the way the spray program is continuing this summer.

Manhattan has not been sprayed in years; in recent years, the Bronx, Staten Island and Queens get the brunt of it.

In the wee hours of the morning, Friday, August 31st, trucks will be blanketing the Upper West Side of Manhattan from 58th Street to 97th Street, West End Avenue to West Drive – including parts of Central Park – from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m.

The pesticide the city is using Anvil 10+10 is comprised of sumithrin and piperonyl butoxide, the former is a suspected neurotoxicant and hormone disrupter; the latter a suspected carcinogen.

Local Law 37 passed by the City Council in 2005 – advocating the city’s use of IPM (Integrated Pest Management) first – Is this how it was supposed to be implemented?

In 2005, the City Council passed Local Law 37 which was supposed to incorporate IPM (Integrated Pest Management) into the city system. With the West Nile Virus spraying, the Department of Health grants itself an “emergency” exemption every year for every occurrence and the person who grants the exemption to the Vector Control office of the Department of Health is the Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Health. So there’s basically no real oversight of how this is handled.

I’ve been told the The Department of Health cut their budget for larvaciding this year – larvaciding is a preventative measure and the CDC says the most effective one.

I called the Department of Health press office and asked some questions that went beyond the information that was in the press release:  FOUR mosquito pools had “infected” (West Nile virus) mosquitoes in Manhattan? Where were those pools? Is a mosquito pool the same as a trap? What is the criteria for spraying? — It was fairly clear that no one from the press is asking these detailed questions because the answers to those questions were not quite so rehearsed as the others, if they were answered at all.

You have a greater chance of getting hit by lightning than getting West Nile Virus

2600 people die each year in New York City from the flu – the question of whether West Nile Virus is a credible “health threat” looms large. Most who get it won’t even know they have it. Yes, for some people, they may have more severe symptoms but that is not a reason to be exposing EVERY PERSON across countless blocks to these toxic pesticides which weaken our immune systems and make someone who might be susceptible to West Nile virus more so.

Anvil 10 + 10 – Pyrethroid Pesticide

The pesticide the City is spraying — “Anvil 10 + 10″ — belongs to a class of adulticides known as pyrethroids, which are endocrine disruptors. They mimic hormones such as estrogen, and may cause breast cancer in women and drastically lower sperm counts in men. Pyrethroids have also been associated with prostate cancer, miscarriages and preterm delivery, asthma, toxicity to many vital organs including the nervous system, liver, kidneys and the gastro-intestinal tract, skin rashes, itching and blisters, and nausea and vomiting.

Anvil contains the cancer-causing chemical piperonyl butoxide, which the Environmental Protection Agency lists as a suspected carcinogen. It also contains Sumithrin — a synthetic toxin, made in the laboratory — as well as benzene-related chemicals (which the label calls “inert ingredients.”)

Spraying in Parks = Bad Idea (Again, Should We be Killing Lady Bugs?)

Spraying increases the mosquito population and kills the mosquitoes’ natural predators including dragonflies, bats, frogs and birds.

Spraying parks is particularly horrifying because there is a natural balance there and it harms many of the living beings that inhabit the park, as well as, again, the mosquito natural predators. Some years ago, when I was handing out flyers at Prospect Park before another round of pesticide spraying, a woman told me she walked through the park the morning after it had been sprayed and encountered endless numbers of ladybugs on the ground dying. Should we be killing ladybugs? I don’t think so.

Another resource on the pesticide being used.

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** When I first read the Department of Health press release I thought this round of pesticide spraying was taking place TOMORROW morning not later tonight (Thursday) into Friday morning 8/31. A small clarification, instead of writing “Friday morning August 31 between the hours of 1 a.m. and 6 a.m.,” stating “EARLY Friday morning” would have made a world of difference. I am sure there are people who made the same assumption and do not realize their Upper West Side neighborhood will be pesticide sprayed imminently. **

Hazardous Pesticide Spraying in Prospect Park Tonight

Prospect Park Lady Bug - Dead Soon?

After first saying that pesticide spraying would not occur in Prospect Park because of the Celebrate Brooklyn concerts – something that raised a few eyebrows (either something is urgent, or it is not) – the New York City Department of Health backtracked and said pesticide spraying will occur tonight after midnight in the Park.

Prospect Park is a 585 acre park with a 60 acre lake. There are dragonflies and bats — both natural predators of the mosquito, as well as butterflies, ladybugs, bees — all are killed by the pesticide spraying. In addition, people walking through the park tomorrow morning will be breathing in fresh pesticide spray which has known and detrimental health effects. People will be walking their dogs which are close to the ground and they will breathe in and walk through the harmful pyrethroid pesticide, Anvil 10+10.

A few years ago, I flyered Prospect park-goers with literature about the health effects of the pesticides and a woman stopped to tell me, that, after walking through the park the morning after it had been sprayed, she encountered numerous lady bugs on the ground dying.

This is our eco-system — we are charged with protecting it; not killing it.

You have a greater chance of being hit by lightning than getting the West Nile virus. If someone did get West Nile, typically, they would not know it or might experience a slight cold.

The city is also spraying other sections of Brooklyn and Queens. Originally the spraying was to take place Wednesday, August 3rd but was delayed due to rain.

See further information from the No Spray Coalition, an organization I work with —

NEW YORK CITY MUST STOP SPRAYING TOXIC PESTICIDES IMMEDIATELY

The City has announced it will spray dangerous pesticides in crowded residential areas in Brooklyn and Queens on Thursday, August 4th, 2011.

The No Spray Coalition is appalled by Mayor Bloomberg’s and the City’s Department of Health decision to renew the mass-spraying — no legitimate reasons given.

We also condemn the New York City government’s advice to residents and visitors that they personally use insect repellants containing DEET on themselves and their children. DEET is especially dangerous for children and should NEVER be used; it is associated with numerous infant deaths. The City knows this; we negotiated an agreement with the City last year that they wouldn’t recommend DEET.

Furthermore, this year’s spray of choice — Anvil 10+10 — is listed in Local Law 37 (2005 update, see page 1, paragraph 4, discussion of table 2) that states that for piperonyl butoxide and MGK-264 contained as synergists in Anvil 10 + 10, that:

both of these chemicals are classified as possible human carcinogens by the EPA Office of Pesticide Programs. Only 94 products contain pyrethrins without other carcinogen ingredients. Therefore, most products containing pyrethrins continue to be prohibited under LL37 even if the reference to the EPA list was updated.

Local Law 37 prohibits the use of pesticides by NYC in public places if it contains PBO and/or MGK-264. Why are they violating their own law?

The No Spray Coalition is also deeply troubled not only by NYC’s reckless spraying of Anvil 10 + 10 to kill mosquitoes, but for the City’s very short notice — around 24 hours, that’s it!

“After years of litigation to stop this reckless spraying of pesticides which has contributed to skyrocketing increases in cancer and asthma, and now the collapse of bee colonies in the New York area, I am outraged that the Bloomberg Administration is renewing its mindless criminal poisoning of the people and environment of our City,” said Howard Brandstein, coordinator of SOS-FOOD, NY State Against Genetic Engineering, and a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit brought seven years ago by the No Spray Coalition and other organizations against Rudolph Giuliani and the New York City government.

That lawsuit ended in April 2007, when NYC signed a settlement agreement acknowledging, among other stipulations, that pesticides:
– may remain in the environment beyond their intended purpose
– cause adverse health effects
– kill mosquitoes’ natural predators (such as dragonflies)
– increase mosquitoes’ resistance to the sprays, and
– are not presently approved for direct application to waterways.

The Department of Health contravenes that settlement by now stating that there are no significant risks of adverse impact to human health associated with the proper use of this product. “That is simply a lie,” said No Spray Coalition coordinator Mitchel Cohen. In fact, the spraying puts many New York City residents and visitors at grave risk.

“These kind of ignorant and lying politicians and bureaucrats apparently have no problem destroying our health in order to ‘save’ us from the so-called West Nile virus,” Howard Brandstein added. “Clearly, the spraying jeopardizes a thousand times more people than the disease.”

The pesticide the City is spraying — “Anvil 10 + 10” — belongs to a class of adulticides known as pyrethroids, which are endocrine disruptors. They mimic hormones such as estrogen, and may cause breast cancer in women and drastically lower sperm counts in men. Pyrethroids have also been associated with prostate cancer, miscarriages and preterm delivery, asthma, toxicity to many vital organs including the nervous system, liver, kidneys and the gastro-intestinal tract, skin rashes, itching and blisters, and nausea and vomiting.

Anvil contains the cancer-causing chemical piperonyl butoxide, which the Environmental Protection Agency lists as a suspected carcinogen. It also contains Sumithrin — a synthetic toxin, made in the laboratory — as well as benzene-related chemicals (which the label calls “inert ingredients.”) (more…)

Parks Department says Rodenticide Removed at Washington Square. (And yet…) On Rethinking Use of Poison in Our Parks

Rat Poison Sign Washington Sq Park

The City’s Parks Department told the New York Times yesterday (May 6th) that they were removing the rodenticide “bait stations” at Washington Square that day to accommodate red-tailed hawk couple Violet and Bobby and their newborn hatchlings now residing above the park. This is good news!

However, at 7 p.m. yesterday, bait stations were still visible along Washington Square South and Washington Square East behind Phase II construction fences and close to the Bobst Library; the building’s 12th floor ledge accommodates Violet and Bobby’s nest.

From New York Times City Room Blog, “The Dangers of Rat Poison”:

bait station at base of tree washington sq south

The main threat Bobby and Violet’s brood face, and it is a serious one, is from Bobby bringing home a poisoned rat for dinner. Rat poisoning is believed to have caused the death last month of an adult male red-tail in Riverside Park, state officials say.

The city parks department regularly sets poison in rat burrows in Washington Square Park, which the hawks’ nest looks out on. But in anticipation of a possible hawk hatch, the department has refrained from doing so since April 22.

bait station, washington square east

“We will not be placing additional rat poison in the park while the hawks are fledging,” Phil Abramson, a parks spokesman, said in an e-mail Friday.

“Parks staff is searching the park today to make sure there are no bait boxes or any other signs of poison remaining.”

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Hopefully, those remaining bait stations, pictured above left, were located and removed today.

Meanwhile, it might be time to rethink rat poison in our city parks in general.

In Robert Sullivan’s book, “Rats: Observations on the History & Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants,” he interviews David E. Davis, “the founding father of modern rat studies.”

Sullivan writes: [Davis] consulted with cities on their rats, preaching his most important discovery throughout the country – that poisoning rats was not in itself an effective way of controlling them. In fact, when rats are killed off, the pregnancy rates of the surviving rats double and the survivors rapidly gain weight. The rats that survive become stronger. “Actually, the removal merely made room for more rats,” Davis wrote.

The only way to get rid of rats was to get rid of the rat food, or garbage, but no one wanted to hear this: as it was the dawn of the age of ecology so also it was the dawn of the age of the chemical, of poisons and pesticides, and people seemed to want a sexier, chemical-based fix.

Seems they still do.

Photos: Cathryn

Yesterday’s WSP Blog Post: Violet and Bobby Nest-Watch: Baby Hawk Spotted! On Heels of Riverside Park Hawk’s Death, Can We Rid Washington Square of Hazardous Rodenticide?

Update: In a tense turn of events, not poison-related, Violet’s foot is entwined in plastic netting leg is being constricted by a wildlife identification band placed there by a researcher. Wildlife rehabilitators and hawk experts Bobby and Cathy Horvath are coming today to see if they can help and somehow spring her from it! [5/9: They will be attempting a rescue mission from the window ledge to remove the band in the next few days. The bands don’t usually cause this to happen but it does make you wonder in general about placing bands on birds and other animals. ]

Riverside Park’s Three Baby Hawks Believed Dead — Pesticides in Parks the Cause?



The New York Times reports this morning that the three baby Red-Tailed Hawks, that were big enough to spread their wings but had not yet left the nest, are no longer in their nest and believed to be dead. One dead “chick” was found on a path at Riverside Park and is being sent to New York State DEC’s (Department of Environmental Conservation) Ward Stone who runs the Wildlife Pathology Unit there and is considered the ‘go to’ person on these matters. Stone will determine the cause of death.

It is speculated that the birds may have been fed by their parents a rat or pigeon that had previously ingested poison. This is not the first time poison put down in our Parks has come into question. In 2002, the New York Daily News reported that some of the eastern screech owls which were reintroduced into Central Park were dying from pesticides.

At that time, the News reported that : “The Raptor Trust, a New Jersey bird rehabilitation center … [which supplied the first owls released into Central Park in 1998] declined to send more birds because of concern over rat poisons used by the city.”

The president of the Raptor Trust, Len Soucy, was quoted as saying, “I was asked to continue the program after 1998 and I declined, because as I understood it … they had reinstituted the use of poisons in the park. You can’t be pro-owl and support the wholesale poisoning of rodents.”

It’s a concern that the same fate afflicted three baby red-tailed hawks in Riverside Park.

You can read the first version of the Times’ story which appeared on the City Room Blog (with some interesting reader comments) here.

Update: A photo of “naturalist” Leslie Day with the discovered “fallen chick” appears on Marie Winn’s blog covering Central Park “Nature News.” (When you go to the site, do scroll down because the migrating birds in Central Park right now are quite magnificent.)

May 14:  All three chicks have been found and are dead.  I’ll post once cause of death is confirmed.