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Swan song encore

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Sheepshead Bay’s assmeblyman is giving the governor the bird.

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D–Sheepshead Bay) has reintroduced legislation — which Gov. Cuomo vetoed in December — intended to save his district’s mute swans from the Department of Environmental Conservation’s plan to eradicate the birds over the next decade by rounding them up and gassing them, or shooting them out of the sky.

The original bill, sponsored in the Senate by state Sen. Tony Avella (D–Queens), passed both houses last year but was shot down by Cuomo, whose office told Cymbrowitz that the department was creating a revised swan management plan that included parts of his legislation.

But the department — which considers mute swans as a “prohibited invasive species” — has still not released or commented on the supposed revisions, leading swan supporters to doubt that the state’s new plan will be an improvement, according to a local animal-rights activist.

“The feeling with the advocates is that DEC wants to go ahead and still kill the swans,” said David Karopkin, organizer of GooseWatch NYC. “They’re just trying to find a way to do it without a PR headache.”

The Department of Environmental Conservation said last year it wanted to exterminate the mute swan population because the birds destroy aquatic vegetation, displace native wildlife species, damage the water quality, attack residents, and pose a threat to aviation. But the assemblyman said there is no concrete proof of the department’s claims.

“There is no hard and clear evidence that mute swans are the kind of dangerous and damaging presence that DEC suggests,” said Cymbrowitz in a statement, adding that residents support the birds that have become iconic waterfront staples. “As far as my constituents are concerned, they’re beautiful birds and the official policy should be ‘live and let live.’ ”

Karopkin said he hopes the mute swan bill not only saves the swans but also starts public discussion about the importance of living in harmony with all of the city’s wildlife.

“Big picture — we need protocols to deal with these situations that are humane and protective,” he said.

Reach reporter Vanessa Ogle at vogle@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4507. Follow her attwitter.com/oglevanessa.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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