July 21, 2010 / Brooklyn news / Meadows of Shame

THEY HAD TO DIE! Feds try to explain their geese massacre

The Brooklyn Paper
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Federal officials are fighting back against the notion that the geese of Prospect Park were needlessly sent to the gas chamber, insisting that the birds that were snuffed out on July 8 are exactly the kinds of fowl that strike planes near New York airports.

Carol Bannerman, a spokeswoman with the federal agency that carried out the goose massacre earlier this month, sought to counter growing public outrage over the middle-of-the-night massacre, saying that the resident geese in Prospect Park posed a real danger to aircraft flying overhead.

“If there are summer strikes with airplanes, those are most likely to be resident Canada geese,” said Bannerman. “Almost half of goose strikes occur from May to September when only ‘residents’ are in the area.”

Bannerman’s comments were an effort to debunk the popular notion that the geese of Prospect Park were innocent victims of an overkill approach to air safety carried out by the United States Department of Agriculture under orders from the city and the Port Authority.

Since the mass execution of waterfowl, countless park-goers have been left shocked and outraged — a former Parks Department commissioner has voiced his opposition, along with local elected officials and FIDO, a dog advocacy group. Around 100 waterfowl lovers were so distraught that they even gathered for a memorial service last weekend.

But federal officials — along with many locals in favor of the “culling” — say that the massacre was necessary so as to avoid another incident similar to the crash landing on the Hudson River last year, the so-called “Miracle on the Hudson” that was caused when pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s plane collided with a flock of migrating geese.

Bannerman insisted that data shows that most geese fly into airplane engines during warm weather, when migratory geese are flying north to cooler climes like Canada.

“The concept that the birds never leave Prospect Park, or only fly under 1,000 feet and therefore are not a threat is not accurate,” said Bannerman, citing federal data. “Eighty percent of birds strikes occur under 1,000 feet, when a plane is either taking off or landing. That is a critical point when the plane is most vulnerable!”

But Bannerman’s comments did little to smooth the feathers of residents still angry about the annihilation of 290 geese — including 40 goslings.

“We don’t believe that the USDA and the city have done due diligence proving that the geese pose a danger,” said Patrick Kwan, the state director for the Humane Society of the United States. “This was a knee-jerk reaction — there are more humane, more effective and more cost effective methods. This amounts to an unscientific and crude catch and kill program.”

Kwan said that the destruction of goose eggs and alternative goose control methods used in England are better options. He added that he had presented these alternatives to both the city and USDA in a meeting, but that they weren’t given proper consideration.

Since 1990, there have been 17 goose strikes near JFK and 33 near LaGuardia Airport, according to a Federal Aviation Administration database, though the number of incidents has decreased dramatically even though New York’s goose population has continued to expand.

Animal lovers say that such data raise questions about any cause-and-effect relationship between geese and strikes on aircraft. Still, the city says it killed 1,200 geese last year, and a press release stated that around 800 would be killed this year. That same press release, however, identified only locations in Queens as targets of the operation. Prospect Park — where roughly half of the target kill was achieved — was not mentioned at all.

To top it off, Prospect Park is not even within seven miles of JFK — the maximum distance defined by the city for a possible visit from federal goose-wranglers. The distance between the westernmost end of a JFK runway and the easternmost spot in Prospect Park is around 7.3 miles. Other reports, including one by the former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern, say the distance is even greater: around nine miles.

At least everyone seem to agree one thing: the population of geese must be better managed — there are around 20,000 in the New York metropolitan area, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Resident geese — birds that have lost their natural instinct to migrate — are the waterfowl that populate just about any park in Brooklyn with a significant body of water. A report by the federal Fish and Wildlife Service explained that the geese prosper in “habitats provided by current urban and suburban landscaping techniques.”

The geese tend to congregate in these spaces for generations, as the environments tend to have few predators and a copious amount of food — often from humans.

Experts say that there may be only a few geese in Prospect Park now — but that won’t last for long.

“Right now, the park looks inviting to other migratory birds, setting the stage for more possible bird strikes,” said Kwan. “And soon enough, the geese will be back.”

Kwan said the round-up ultimately will be seen as ineffective.

“Look, I don’t have rats in my home because I don’t have holes in my house and leave food out — traps alone don’t fix the problem,” he said. “But that’s basically what the city, in concert with the USDA, is doing. Any New Yorker can tell you that setting up rat traps all day won’t solve a rat problem.”

Updated 5:19 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

alexis from Prospect Heights says:
Your name suits you, #1
by the way, they killed geese, not ducks.
July 21, 2010, 8:18 am
Mary Beth from Windsor terrace says:
Sorry...this does not calm my outrage.
They neglected to manage the population overtime, waited for an explosion and then resorted to a massacre in the dead of night. If it was so appropriate to do, why were they not forthcoming with the community? There has been nothing but deafening silence and now they are scrambling to defend their actions. There are humane ways of dealing with the issue and instead they resorted to senseless slaughter and total disregard for life itself, that is the bottom line. Had they involved the community I am betting they would have had a slew of volunteers to assist them with management and at the same time educating an empowering the community- what a concept.

July 21, 2010, 9:02 am
Don from Kensington says:
A nice piece of reporting. The USDA's logic makes no sense: The geese will only keep coming back. There are ways to manage them without killing them. They are part of the fabric of life in Brooklyn.
July 21, 2010, 10:03 am
Karl from Windsor Terrace says:
The attempt at damage control by the USDA is offensive and reeks of A FOUL, NOT FOWL odor.
The back-tracking to cover their tracks when this operation was never meant to be written about, shows a contempt to the public rarely exposed so clearly.
To try and justify the killing of resident geese with inappropriate statistics and bad faith spin control is appalling.
July 21, 2010, 10:56 am
trace from park slope says:
Or like Tina Fey's new boyfriend, Matt Damon, on 30 Rock said, "a good pilot misses the birds." He does it all the time - flies around the birds..
July 21, 2010, 11:54 am
Jeffrey Starin from Park Slope says:
The recent mass asphyxiation of Canadian geese in Prospect Park initiated by the Port Authority with its complicit partner the FAA, but positioned as a Department of Agriculture action, is a sad testament to how our society and its governance has become incapable of differentiating common sense from greed and expediency. This is not a complex issue: the FAA is in the process of redesigning our National Airspace System to introduce their whiz bang "NextGen" technology that allow aircraft to fly lower. It does not take a rocket scientist to know that by flying lower, over parks and wildlife sanctuaries, you invite bird strikes. If the FAA and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey had applied some common sense rather than being blinded by airline industry lobbyists who stand to make a bonanza for the aero-mercantile businesses that manufacture this technology, they would have conducted proper environmental impact studies and seen that by lowering the altitude that aircraft fly, you enter the habitat of winged wildlife. Instead, the FAA and Port Authority use their "safety" card to somehow imply this is a irritant that must be gassed away. As a result of the FAA's bone-headed decision permitting approaches to airports at lower altitudes over densely populated urban areas across the U.S., safety has been diminished, not increased.
July 21, 2010, 12:56 pm
PattyA from Manhattan says:
Mr. Starin's comments are very interesting, if not downright alarming. I and othes have noted planes going to Laquardia airport flying very low over Central Park, particularly in the early evenings. They are so loud and low sometimes, it brings back memories of 9--11. It makes perfect sense that FAA might want to "eliminate" flying bird populations if that is the plan and it certainly seems to be.
July 21, 2010, 1:37 pm
PattyA from Manhattan says:
A question to Mr. Sarin: Does the FAA provide some explanation for wanting to fly planes at lower altitudes as they come into the city? As well as increasing hazards from possible bird strikes, wouldn't this also cause even more noise to those residents who live under the air space?
July 21, 2010, 1:54 pm
Anthony Chiappelloni from Winsor Terrace says:
I have live in Windsor Terrace for over thirty years and have been going to the park with my dogs for the same amount of time. The resident geese had been the lake for generations, since the 1930's. There must have been hundreds of plane crashes in those seventy years if the USDA is correct on the danger of these birds who flew no further than Greenwood cemetery. They could not fly high enough because of muscle atrophy from not being migratory, The way they died was horrible and the USDA now after almost two weeks makes a statement which is too late and terribly wrong. It remind me of what the Philosopher Pascal said "The more I know of man, the more I love my dog"
July 21, 2010, 2:01 pm
Sid from Boerum Hill says:

I actually attended a briefing on this and the helicopter issues over Brooklyn Heights. In fact they try to keep them as high as possible over Central Park and its more than 1000 feet.
July 21, 2010, 2:04 pm
K from arkady says:
While we no longer have geese, enjoy the 747's flying low enough over Prospect Park to see the rivets. I mean, nothing says "escape from the city" like cars driving through your picnic or planes buzzing over your head. Heaven forfend we should have a single piece of earth unpaved or flown around.
July 21, 2010, 2:13 pm
Sam from LES says:
And we should care why?
July 21, 2010, 2:54 pm
Barry from PS says:
You should care because of the merciless slaughter of these poor innocent creatures! Who is the USDA to say whether they should live or die?
July 21, 2010, 2:54 pm
Sam from LES says:

THEY CAME FIRST for the Geese in Prospect Park,
and I didn't speak up.

THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

and by that time no one was left to speak up.
July 21, 2010, 3:12 pm
Barry from PS says:
Ok Sam, clearly you are the man, its clear that you can fly higher than superman. Why don't you, use your new found powers of flight time to line the protective layer of the airlines? When the next time a goose goes poof, and is lowering the roof, of a 747 bound to Al-Duf; then I'll look to you, Sam, and say......

you aren't so cool.
July 21, 2010, 3:16 pm
Ratman from downtown says:
Get a life people they are birds. Dirty they make a mess, and there are more where they came from.
July 21, 2010, 3:38 pm
K from Arkady says:
Yes, there are more geese. There will be _many_ more bird strikes when the planes are allowed to fly lower. The cull is simply to cover the asses of the FAA when the predicable deaths occur due to lowering the airspace planes can fly in. The issue here, as well stated by Jeff above, is are the increased human deaths due to bird strikes an acceptable loss for lowering the airspace. Business says yes, your death is as inconsequential as that of the bird where money is concerned. Government seems to agree. And you do as well. Any of you wingnuts want to pursue your "I love humans, we need to protect them" argument here? Yeah, I thought not.
July 21, 2010, 4:08 pm
Joe Evans from Patterson, NY says:
There are humane methods of controlling geese. My wife's company, GEESE OFF! had the contract for three months to clear geese from Brooklyn Bridge Park prior to its opening. We had no geese there for weeks on end before the end of the contract.
She uses highly trained teams of dog handlers and Border Collies. You can see this in a series of short films "In Dogged Pursuit of Geese" on the following link:
Incidentally, the first film shows the geese in Prospect Park before the culling - the film-maker lives near there.
July 21, 2010, 6:14 pm
Steven Rosenberg from Park Slope says:
Joe Evans from Patterson, NY you're serious, right?

Just how does scaring geese down the block reduce their interactions with planes? HELLO?
July 22, 2010, 12:09 am
df from pp says:
Just pay your taxes and shut up
July 22, 2010, 4:55 am
Moshe Aron Kestenbaum from Williamsburg ODA says:
Lets join together at a Prospect Park vigil to Light A Candle, for the tragic Death of 3000 geese that were killed in propect park .

MY eulogy for the geese.

The lake was thawing, the early spring sun reflected its glare,
the lovely geese just landed, one plummeting through the air. As they execute their dances and drills
over flat land and rolling hills.
The livegeese nestled beside her lifeless mate, silent in the reeds, his still form was no longer receptive to his mate's nurturing needs. She rested beside him, nudging softly, waiting for the same,
eyes blinking, not comprehending, waiting, but nothing came.
July 22, 2010, 11:18 am
Moshe Aron Kestenbaum from Williamsburg ODA says:
If I could put together a quorum ( a minyan ) to assemble in the park I will say a Kadish
July 22, 2010, 11:48 am
Jimmy D from Clinton Hills says:
Mr kestenbaum you would like this story :

A very old man had a dog, his only company for almost of 15 years. Regrettably one day, the dog died. He loved his dog like a son, for that reason he went to see his Rabbi and asked the Rabbi if he would say Kaddish (a prayer for the dead) for the dog.

The Rabbi told him: - Mr. Bernbaum, you know that we are a very Orthodox Congregation; Kaddish is only for the humans, definitely not for animals. The Rabbi -suggested - that there was a new congregation of Reformist, two streets down. Go and request them to say Kaddish for your dog. You know... this new congregation is very liberal, they may say Kaddish for your dog.

The old man thanked the Rabbi, and in the farewell he added: - Sorry Rabbi, before going there, I make you an extra question, I don't know them and I don't want to offend them. Do you believe that they will accept my donation of $25,000 for their Congregation in memory of my small and dear Moshe??

- WHAAAATTTT!!!!... screamed the Rabbi ...You never mentioned that your dog Moshe was Jewish ! !
July 22, 2010, 6:34 pm
Primith from Long Island says:
This is in response to the killing of geese. I to have been doing Geese Control as Silly Goose Squad. I have alot of happy clients and I to see the pilots flying low and they avoid hitting the geese. I have been on airplanes and they are experienced pilots. If you get rid of the geese then you will have no to blame except the gulls, pidgeons, eagles and all other flying birds. Next thing it will be the clouds and turbulances. I will be willing to help the city out with Geese control, egg oilng and what ever it takes to help keep stop the killing of these poor geese.

I have been doing my company for 3 yrs and I also do Geese and Animal Waste removal. I also see Geese off all over to and with the help of mine and geese off the geese problem will be controlled.
July 25, 2010, 3:53 pm
Lucy from Greenwoode says:
That crazy goose is loose in the hoose!
July 26, 2010, 7:04 am
Primith from Long Island says:
Did anyone read the post yesterday they had a article about the Town Of Hempstead Geesepeace. Their ways of dealing with the geese is what I am saying don't kill the breed geese. Just try to make it uncomfortable for them then they will leave the area. The pilots are complaining about the geese, gulls, any bird that flies. I don't understand people. Some planes fly low like the ones over the house. The people don't complain when the planes come down by a engine or machanical error, on either the pilot or equiptment.

Sometimes its just easier to blame the geese
July 27, 2010, 6:26 pm
dave from brooklyn says:
the geese need to die but instead of paying tax payers money to do it let a few hunters pay to do it.
Sept. 25, 2010, 11:46 pm

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