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.

********************************************************************************

* 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.

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.

***************************************************************************

** 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. **

Two of Central Park’s Fledgling Red-Tailed Hawks’ Lives in Jeopardy — Rat Poison Likely The Culprit

sick young hawk in tree near Museum

Near Central Park, two fledglings hawks, children to famed Red-tailed Hawk Pale Male and mate  Zena, are in precarious health, believed to be poisoned by secondary poisoning after their parents fed them a rat poisoned by rodenticide. The Pale Male Irregulars Blog has been updating regularly since Monday (July 23rd) first via an alert from Central Park hawkwatcher Jeff Johnson:

Very bad news–one fledgling was found sick in an enclosed space on the American Museum of Natural History grounds yesterday and is now in the care of the Horvath Rehabilitators. This second fledgling is displaying symptoms of rat poisoning also…it has not left the tree it has been perched in for almost two days now and refused to eat a meal left in plain view.

Pale Male’s previous mate, Ginger Lima, died from secondary rodenticide poisoning earlier this year.

At Washington Square Park, in May of last year, the Parks Department agreed to remove all the rat poison at the park.

Rehabilitators Bobby and Cathy Horvath, who were involved in the rescue of Washington Square’s Violet (who died last year), wrote on their Facebook page Monday:

The Fifth Avenue fledgling had blood work done today and we should have results tomorrow. He looked a little better than yesterday , is perching well and bright eyed and alert this morning and is keeping food down. We are treating it even before results for poisoning and frounce too but don’t know how much pigeon is eaten compared to definite rats being consumed regularly.

The other young hawk, pictured above, is not faring well; he has not been rescued yet (he is in a difficult position to intercept) and he is not eating although he has moved (himself) between at least two trees.

In response to this, and the death of six other hawks this year in our city parks (!), there’s a petition to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to stop the murder of our Red Tailed Hawks in NYC:

Stop the MET, Museum of Natural History and Central Park Precinct from indirectly killing wildlife. … We are privileged to be able to watch them [Red Tailed Hawks] build their nests, raise and lovingly care for their young all while enriching our lives in this urban jungle. … We, are the fortunate ones being able to witness this incredible sight. Unfortunately, we also get to see them die. Their death is a slow, painful and torturous one. The type of poison that these institutes use for rodent control is deadly, not only to our majestic birds, but to all wildlife, our families and our own pets. We are all interconnected, what happens to one, happens to all of us. This year alone, there were 6 deaths of our magnificent Red Tail Hawks in the NYC area, (that we know of), from this type of poison. At present, we are watching two of the legendary Pale Male babies dying, because of this poison.

I wrote last year at the time the Parks Department agreed to remove the poison about rethinking rat poison in our city:

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.

Central Park’s Harlem Meer Has a Floating Christmas Tree!

Feeling like NYC has gotten a bit boring and the City government abhors anything too out of the ordinary? Well, check out the Central Park Harlem Meer Floating Christmas Tree via New York Lives:

Great history of that area of the park. When I read the description of the clip sent by New York Lives, I thought a random person must have placed the floating tree there in the water – for fun. However, this was indeed implemented by the management. Whether you celebrate the holidays in any way – or not, there’s something heartening about this.

New York Lives (“a web video site featuring portraits of New Yorkers from different walks of life”) web site.

** Don’t forget caroling at the Arch today at 5 p.m.! **

Photo: Central Park is Closed


Daily News has some great photos and updates here related to Hurricane Irene and the city.

Also see New York Times Hurricane Tracking Map.

Stay safe!

Photo: Anjali Mullany

Central Park Bethesda Fountain Off Limits Now to Performance; Designated “Quiet Zone” Where Musicians are Issued Summonses and Risk Arrest

Central Park Bethesda Fountain

The New York Post reported May 29th on the decision to designate Central Park’s Bethesda Fountain a “Quiet Zone,” putting an end to music performances there and issuing summons to those who defy this. The organization pulling the strings behind this decision is the Central Park Conservancy, the private entity entrusted with the care of this 843 acre public park. This is what happens when a private corporation runs a public park. This clearly has also been condoned by the city’s Parks Department under Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe who was appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Both Bloomberg and Benepe are big proponents of privatization. (The Mayor also lives near by). A spokesperson from the Conservancy told the Post, “The fountain is a place for quiet reflection.”

From the article at The New York Post:

City officials began blitzing street musicians with nuisance summonses and posted a “Quiet Zone” sign last week at the beloved Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, where virtuoso performers have been making beautiful music together for over a century.

On weekends, baritone John Boyd, 48, would belt out spirituals backed by a choir including six of his nine children and fellow classical buskers. But two months ago, Parks police descended on the Bethesda Terrace arcade with a message: Muzzle the music.

Last week, they posted a Quiet Zone sign banning Boyd and other serious musicians from playing in the arcade where world-class performers offer their talents for free to ordinary New Yorkers. …

After being hit with five summonses totaling $2,300, the former choir director from Detroit was arrested by Parks cops Wednesday and hauled in handcuffs to the Central Park police station.

“I have a right to free speech,” said Boyd. “When I sing, it is expressing what I believe in. I told them, ‘You are not chasing me away.’ ”

On Friday, passer-by Rhonda Liss, 63, of Yonkers, asked Boyd if she could join him in an impromptu duet.

“You have such a beautiful voice,” said Liss, a onetime Met opera singer and “Phantom of the Opera” cast member in Toronto. The pair tossed off a jazzy rendition of “My Favorite Things.”

“Is this what they want to arrest people for — singing joy to the people?” she asked incredulously.

When asked about the music crackdown, a spokesman for the Central Park Conservancy, the cash-flush nonprofit that runs the park for the city, said: “The fountain is a place for quiet reflection.”

Interesting thread of comments at the Post site. One commenter says, “Bloomberg should be hauled in front of a court for the crime of destroying the soul of New York City.”

NYS DEC, Mama Hawk Violet’s Rescue and Remembering Hal the Central Park Coyote

Does anyone remember Hal the coyote who was living freely for awhile in Central Park, evading capture, before finally being caught, and dying at the hands of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation when they handled his “tagging” vs. leaving this task in the hands of experienced wildlife rehabilitators? Instead, politics and ego got in the way. This feisty, healthy creature was dead at 1 year old while “being tagged for release.” What I heard, the back story, was that the person who insisted on handling this, handled Hal incorrectly and this amazing coyote died. The tag is the coyote equivalent of a band which is what is causing Mama hawk Violet’s leg to swell. The tagging and the banding go on.

There is great concern about the decision by NYU to have the DEC handle beautiful mama red-tailed hawk, Violet vs. the Horvaths, certified wildlife rehabilitators. Yes, their plan to capture Violet sounded risky but no less risky than now deciding that Violet may not return to her nest at all? According to the New York Times City Room Blog, the DEC is working on this today, perhaps as I write this.

When Bobby and Violet set up their nest outside NYU President John Sexton’s office (what are the chances?), I worried about the University and Sexton’s involvement but it seemed fine – up until this point. I am concerned they were not able to think through this particular situation clearly; calling in the DEC indicates this. (I did, after all, witness John Sexton’s up-is-down speech in support of Mayor Bloomberg and abolishing voted-in term limits.)

Violet and Bobby, the new neighborhood red-tailed hawks and their baby, have taken the place of the Washington Square Arch on NYU’s home page – temporarily, of course.

I don’t believe animals and wildlife should be banded unless a true argument was made on an individual basis. It was a band placed on Violet’s leg that constricted it, causing it to swell and why she may now need attention and intervention. Humans decide that these bands placed by “researchers” are not bothering the animal. How do they know? At Prospect Park, some of the Canada Geese, before all of them were killed at the hands of the city, had big yellow bands placed around their necks with numbers on them, I presume, by the DEC. How do we know this is not bothersome, does not affect them in some way as they go about their lives?

Can we at least learn from Hal and not cause other suffering and death and let nature be?

Manhattan Community Board 8 Asserts Itself: Expresses “Outrage” Over Parks Department Installation of Mobile Food Carts at Tavern on the Green space; Behind-the-Scenes Deal

From the list serve , “1000+ Friends,” that keeps many of us informed on Parks/Parks Department issues, news that Manhattan Community Board 8 — blindsided by NYC Parks Department actions which kept them in the dark, and, in fact, misinformed them on what would be coming to the former Tavern on The Green space — issued a resolution expressing their “outrage” over the decision to place mobile food trucks in the Central Park space, contrary to what was previously presented as their plans.

Just a note that Community Board 2’s Parks Committee often hides behind the oft quoted statement “community boards are just advisory,” but, of course, the body can always issue resolutions which are submitted to the City Council and the media to raise awareness of issues like this one.

And certainly more than a few issues were raised at the last Parks Committee meeting earlier this month in relation to Washington Square Park – but more on that another day.

From 1000+ Friends:

WHERE’S my CRYSTAL CHANDELIER?

Fans of the old time gaudy excess at the Tavern On the Green are definitely not happy with what’s been happening at there lately. In fact, they’ve resolved to oppose it — or at least look for some more facts amid the lack of fancy.

Witness the following resolution was passed by Manhattan Community Board 8 at its last full Board meeting:

RESOLUTION: WHEREAS the Parks Dept. failed to inform Community Board 8 about the renovations to the Tavern on the Green site, which is a landmarked structure in a landmarked park; and

WHEREAS the Parks Dept., without any consultation to the Community Board 8, awarded contracts to food vendors who will sell cooked food from unattractive and potentially polluting trucks at the Tavern on the Green site, in contrast to plans presented to Community Board 8 for vending via specialty carts; and

WHEREAS the Parks Dept. ignored Community Board 8’s July 2010 resolution asking the Department to (more…)

Blog Musings…

There are many things I would have liked to have covered over the summer here on the Washington Square Park Blog, but, alas, could not … such as:

*the unnecessary and cruel killing of the resident Canadian geese (and Mayor Bloomberg‘s role in it) rounded up from many parks across New York City;

*the Mayor’s re-election campaign for that third term and his spending on it – many interesting articles on this;

*NY City Council Speaker Christine Quinn who has some spirited challengers for her re-election campaign as City Council Member in Yetta Kurland and Maria Passannente- Derr, and who, uh, won’t commit to support the Democratic candidate for Mayor (which is code for … how can she not support Mayor Michael Bloomberg with whom she has a co-dependent relationship …? they need each other at this point. The other option being discussed is that she just won’t take a position on endorsement vs. backing him.) and Council Member Alan Gerson also running for re-election (and, whose name, last I checked, didn’t make it on the primary ballot because of an error on his petitions)*;

*The High Line Park opening ;

*The sad demise of many Central Park trees because of an intense storm a couple of weeks ago.  (There were some interesting comments in articles from NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe who, on the one hand, has such an attachment to trees, but, on the other, is so quick to chop them down if he has some fancy design plan in mind that might raise his profile…)

I had to focus a bit less on this blog and a bit more on some other life things so these things were not covered here on the blog.

And what about Washington Square Park…?

I will definitely write when I find out more about plans for Phase II – which unfortunately, to date, the Parks Department Press Department has been less than forthcoming about.  What DID that accepted bid come in at for Phase II? Rumor is work will begin around mid-September. I still strongly believe the work should be done in two parts so that the Eastern side of the park and the Southwestern portion are not unnecessarily gated off all at once, closed to all.

Next blog post Wednesday, September 9th!  See you then!

** Check back for this post to be Updated later this week because I’ll try to add other links and sources for you to find out more about all of the above. **

* To read more about Alan Gerson and Christine Quinn’s roles in the redesign of Washington Square Park, scroll down to Categories on the right sidebar and click “Gerson-Quinn.”

Central Park’s Wild Turkey Hanging Out at Corner of 59th and 6th

Wild Turkey off Central Park running path

Wild Turkey off Central Park running path

Apparently Central Park, which spans from 59th to 110th Streets and covers 840 acres, is getting a bit boring for a wild turkey that took up residence there. The turkey was spotted yesterday outside the confines of the park at the corner of 59th Street and 6th Avenue. NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe — who unfortunately has not always been on the up & up to date around redesign details of Washington Square Park and other public space issues, typically leaning toward reducing, corporatizing and privatizing public space — does seem to appreciate wildlife. Commissioner Benepe told the New York Times he spotted the turkey in the rain. He said, “I saw the wild turkey on the corner of 59th and Sixth Avenue, right in front of the statue of Simon Bolivar, just completely out in the open by itself, as if its a pigeon, except it’s five times bigger.”

Read the Times’ story here.