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Nature, Brooklyn, Parks, Geese and Occupy

Why Our Parks Need to be Parks

Last year, Prospect Park nature-lovers and friends to protect the park's resident geese from certain death. Canada geese exterminators—paid for with our tax dollars—without our consent or even opinion—were on their way to kill our geese and their goslings.  

June is the killing month because that is when the birds molt, so cannot fly. They are helpless. Flightless. It was a rough year, last year.

Local wildlife-advocate, David Karopkin, quickly organized a rapid-response team of "" committed to staking out Prospect Park 24/7—ready to video, document and expose the excessive force, cruelty and brutality normally kept quiet by our friends, the government. But, after all that watching, they never showed. That was the good news.

The bad news was that while USDA's wildlife "services"  detoured Grand Army Plaza, they enjoyed a bloody, brutal killing spree across city parks in every borough. Despite valient efforts, rallies, speeches from our friends Senator Eric Adams & Representative Letitia James, they continued their mission to  "Rid our skies of Canada Geese." 

It didn't help, obviously, when Flight 1459 (Jan 2009) went down in the Hudson and Bloomberg seized the moment, not to address the egregious maintenance and airline safety cut-backs that have accumulated since Regan-era union-busting, but focused instead on a war on birds.

But Bloomberg was not quoted saying, "If it's between an exhausted, underpaid over-taxed pilot or poorly maintained aircraft, I'll choose the aircraft every time." 

The fact that all planes are tested to withstand "bird strikes" before hitting the runway, the fact that Flight 1459 so "heroically" landed in the Hudson had reported serious mechanical problems two days before, or the fact that a mere .068% of any fatal crashes can be attributable to nature—were not part of Bloomberg's campaign to "get rid of geese."  

It didn't occur to me that by caring for the Prospect Park geese, I would end up getting a crash course in the rapid destruction of public ownership in public parks. I would find out that the and privatization interests of public parks is accelerating nationally.  

I attended a  last August, where NYC Parks Commissioner responded to questions about the under-funding of basic clean-up and maintenance of our public parks by praising the "volunteers" who have stepped up to fill the craven gaps.  I would hear Cathryn Nagel talk about the national effort by the City Parks Alliance to replicate the for-profitization of public parks everywhere.

I discovered that our own Prospect Park Alliance was spending $70 million dollars on a two-tiered skating rink concession/tourist attraction while the lake was (and continues) to fill up with lead-based tackle, garbage, plastic and even a car left submerged for months, as its chemical coating dispersed into the water.

I have been reading and learning more every day about "New and Improved Parks With No Nature."

But when Occupy Wall Street happened last September, I felt a change in the weather. The beginning of questions being asked. Absolute Power being challenged. And it started, incidentally, with an "occupation" of a public park. In fact, the central point of contention with all of the occupy actions seems to pivot around the "taking" of public space. While Zuccotti Park was (and is) shut down, new occupations of other parks are springing up—most recently Union Square.

And hundreds of new occupy groups are now active across the country with one purpose, taking back space. Or, more kindly, re-purposing public space away from private interest and for the people. This seems like a great idea. If all parks were truly public, then possibly public opinion, public consensus and collective concern for the wildlife in some of those parks would be factored. If hundreds of people joined hands in a symbolic "Hands Across the park" in every borough, in every park, maybe the USDA would have to make a U turn and allow us to live with our wildlife in peace.

Tomorrow—Sunday, March 25th, there will be an occupation of Ft. Greene Park. This event is being coordinated by Occupy Town Square and I plan to be there. I will be talking about Goosewatch, I will be hoping for more volunteers as the group plans to expand its monitoring beyond Prospect Park and extend to all parks currently targeted for this June's killing spree. Occupy Environmental Solidarity will be there talking about the madness of fracking and pipelines and other environmental groups like NYPIRG and Brooklyn Food Coalition will present. And others. All united for a greener and better tomorrow.

I feel more hopeful this year.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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