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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Seven or Eight New York City Red-Tailed Hawks Dead Thus Far in 2012 from Secondary Rodenticide Poisoning; Is Rodenticide Returning to Washington Square Park?

Detex Block Monitors Rodent Activity

In late July, the number of New York City Red-Tailed Hawks dead of secondary rodenticide poisoning numbered six or seven and was receiving red flags of alarm in some quarters. Then, two of Pale Male’s latest children both got sick, were subsequently rescued, and are believed to be on the road to recovery.* In late August, Zena, Pale Male’s most recent mate, disappeared and is believed to be dead. Ginger Lima, his previous mate, died early this year of secondary rodenticide poisoning. A new female hawk has moved in according to the Pale Male Blog (they will not move into the territory unless the other mate is gone).

It’s getting hard to keep track but I think we are at seven or eight (maybe more) deaths – as of early September this year – of Red-tailed Hawks dead due to secondary rodenticide poisoning (eating a mouse or rat poisoned by a rodenticide).

SE corner of WSP

In May of 2011, the Parks Department agreed to remove the rodenticide at Washington Square and NYU made a big thing about how they were advocating for that (and how “sustainable” they are) although nearby University buildings were still displaying rodenticide bait stations. The hawk watchers believe that the rodenticide is coming back to Washington Square and I’d say the monitoring of the “rodents” with Detex (sign above near construction) indicates that is possible.  The hawk advocates are genuinely concerned and with good reason. They seem to want to push for a different, “kinder” (my word, not theirs) rodenticide but is that even the answer?

I will reiterate that I think it’s time to rethink poisons in our city. 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. He consulted with David E. Davis, the “founding father of modern rat studies” who determined that “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 sign at top is for Detex and is located on the southern end of the park near the Phase III construction. It is allegedly “non toxic” and tracks the “rodent activity.” This bait station (above) is currently in the southeastern section of Washington Square and I don’t know if it’s newly placed or old. An email query to the Parks Department as to its position currently on rodenticides and specifically to Washington Square Park did not receive a response.

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* In a sad turn of events, Jeff Johnson, the person who killed a former co-worker outside the near the Empire State Building a couple of weeks ago, had provided that latest update on Pale Male’s children; he was an avid hawk watcher. The Pale Male Blog has an interesting take on the last time hawk watchers saw him at Central Park in “The Man We Called ‘SUIT.” The New York Times interviewed his mother who spoke of his love of his cat in addition to the hawks. Comments at many of the city’s papers mentioned how hard it is for people right now and how certain things push some people over the edge. The Bloomberg Administration’s coddling of developers and uber-gentrifying of neighborhoods makes it harder for people outside of the Mayor’s billionaire friends to make a living and doesn’t help. Obviously this was a complex situation and sad for everyone involved.

Hawk and Squirrel Benefit from Fenced-off Construction Area — Taking a Break from the Heat (Photos)

One benefit of the construction at the park is, that, with the fenced-off areas, it gives the wildlife some breathing room (when there’s work not being done, of course). Here, not far from one another, are pictures of one of the fledgling red-tailed hawks and a black squirrel … This was end of last week when it was extremely hot. The hawk had his (or her) mouth open and was almost panting; he had his wings slightly spread out — a few people who stopped by noted that this was because of the heat. I kept wanting to ask … how do you know that? They didn’t seem like the regular hawk-watchers and I’d never heard that tho’ it made sense. These two (squirrel and young hawk) were far enough away from one another tho’ some other squirrels got a bit close for comfort. Rosie (mom hawk) was in a tree not far away within the open Southeastern section of the park. She didn’t stay long – she took off and flew along Washington Square South and it was an amazing sight to witness. No photos of that – it was too awe-inspiring and quick to get a shot but here are some of the others:

Hawk within Phase III construction area

Black squirrel taking a break…

Young hawk closer up…

Notice the way the left leg is jutting out (very Angelina Jolie at the Oscars!)

On ground attempting to hunt and catch…



Photos: Cathryn

Idyllic Saturday at the Park: Music, Fountain, Open Lawn … Hawks! (And More.)

This looks like an idyllic Saturday at the park on the NW end with music, the fountain in the background, the lawn (for the most part) open…

And then… you realize there’s a hawk above taking it all in!

juvenile hawk…

This is one of the neighborhood juvenile hawks… Boo or Scout (so named by New York Times‘ readers, in a nod to “To Kill a Mockingbird”), child to Rosie and Bobby. Other wild life was abundant as well including…

A flock of pigeons swoop through the sky…

Sparrow people-watching on to open lawn

A monarch butterfly…

this colorful performance troupe was practicing on Garibaldi stage

Just a snapshot of what was going on…
Photos: Cathryn

Washington Square’s Juvenile Red-tailed Hawks Take First Flight Monday!

Fledge to nearby ledge!

There are two juvenile hawks this year as opposed to last year when there was just one – sweet Pip. And on Monday, Memorial Day evening, they both took their first flight from the 12th floor ledge of the Bobst Library.

Urban Hawks Blog recounted some of the unusual aspects of this fledge (more photos too):

Fledge Day at Washington Square turned out to be unlike any I have every watched. Both eyasses fledged within ten minutes of each other (8:05 and 8:15) and ended up on the same ledge of a nearby NYU building. Red-tailed Hawks don’t normally fledge together, nor do they usually fledge to the same place. The fledge happened at dusk, another rarity.

I’ve noticed in the past that many in the hawk world think there is a certain order to all this and the Washington Square hawks keep defying it — which is fitting!

Photo by Washington Square avid hawk watcher and New York Times‘ Web Cam chat room moderator (I think I have that right!) Pondove via the New York Times.

** The history of the Washington Square hawks with the appearance of Violet and Bobby at WSP Blog. **

Baby Red-Tailed Hawk at Washington Square Leg Entangled – For Now, Intervention Pending

Rosie and Baby Hawks

Majorly adorable

First Mama Hawk Violet’s troubles with her leg band, now new baby hawk above Washington Square is having issues with her leg being entangled in a plastic bag in the nest …

The story from the New York Times(May 5):

For the last three days, one of the baby red-tailed hawks in Washington Square Park has had one leg tangled in a white plastic bag, causing panic among Hawk Cam fans about her well-being.

A team of wildlife experts, including the executive director of NYC Audubon, Glenn Phillips, has been closely monitoring the situation and working out how best to reach the baby hawk should it become necessary to intervene. The plan, for now, is to wait until next week before taking action on the nest.

“We all agree that the chick is not in any immediate danger, and that there is a good chance that the chick will free itself from the bag,” Mr. Phillips said in an e-mail.

But, he added, if by next week the eyas has not freed itself from the disposable bag, then a Long Island-based wildlife rehabilitator, Bobby Horvath, will attempt a rescue with a long-poled net.

It seems like some lessons were learned from last time.

Commenters at the Times‘ story had valid suggestions –

from mricle from the Bronx: “If we can ban smoking in public parks and beaches, we can ban disposable plastic bags. Even though paper bags kill trees, they certainly cause less pollution and wildlife issues, and are mostly biodegradable.”

from Sarah from Brooklyn: “Maybe this will be a wake up call to people about the evils of plastic bags!”

I haven’t written about this year’s hawks’ nest or the now growing baby hawks partly because I’m still sad over Violet’s death. For certain, new mom (and Bobby’s new mate) Rosie is really interesting and fun to watch but there was something very special about Violet. I felt for many of the hawk watchers whether there were new baby hawks this year was paramount, and, as long as there was a replacement mate, that was what mattered. I’m sure that’s not how it was – but that’s how it at times appeared. (Not targeting any specific person by any means…)

I never quite realized how intrusive the camera is in the nest. With all sophisticated technology available today, I wonder — could it be a bit less ‘in their faces?’

Photo: D. Bruce Yolton/Urban Hawks Blog

Archive at WSP Blog on Violet, Bobby and Pip