No reprieve for ‘invasive’ mute swans

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Brooklyn’s mute swans may be silenced for good.

Gov. Cuomo vetoed a bill on Dec. 17 that was aimed at halting the Department of Environmental Conservation’s controversial plan to exterminate all mute swans in the state by 2025, putting the swans of Prospect Park and Sheepshead Bay back in the state’s crosshairs.

An animal-rights activist who is fighting to save the species said the governor’s decision ignores the pleas of elected officials and the public, who will be burdened with the cruel cost of killing the creatures.

“He ignored the will of the public, he ignored a near unanimous state legislature. That rarely happens,” said David Karopkin, organizer of GooseWatch NYC. “The government is just going to kill a lot of them and it is not going to accomplish anything, and it is going to waste a lot of tax dollars — and it is going to be ridiculously cruel.”

State conservationists have said the swans destroy aquatic plants, pollute water, endanger planes, and attack people. Swan lovers say there’s no evidence to that effect.

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D–Sheepshead Bay) introduced the bill to protect the elegant birds that are an iconic feature of his waterfront district. According to the assemblyman, the governor explained his veto by saying the Department of Environmental Conservation is revising its current swan plans. But Cymbrowitz said the department has a bloody history with swans.

“The governor’s office told me that DEC would be introducing a revised plan that would incorporate parts of the bill,” said Cymbrowitz. “I would like to find this reassuring, but DEC already promised to consider non-lethal methods for managing the swans and then last June shot two swans to death upstate in full view of the public.”

The Department of Environmental Conservation said it has met with various animal-rights groups, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, New York State Conservation Council, and Ducks Unlimited to discuss revisions. A spokeswoman for the department said it is finalizing a new plan, but she could not say when it would be made public.

“While there is not a confirmed date, the revised draft management plan will soon be released for another 45-day comment period,” Lori Severino said.

But Karopkin said the department has promised — and failed — to revise its program in the past, so he is going to continue to fight for the rights of those without a voice.

“The DEC has been saying they were going to release a revised plan for almost a year now,” Karopkin said. “We’ll keep fighting for the swans. We’ll keep fighting for all wildlife.”

Reach reporter Vanessa Ogle at or by calling (718) 260–4507. Follow her
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019: Context added.
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