Volume 81, Number 9 | July 28 - August 3, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
File photo by J.B. Nicholas
No! Eat rats, rats!!! Not pigeons!!! In this photo from February, Tompkins Square’s “Hipster Hawk” was noshing on, yes, a pigeon. But he could really help out a lot more in combating the park’s rodent infestation if he focused exclusively on eating rats — a LOT of rats. Like hundreds and hundreds of rats. Like the “Ratkins Diet.” In fact, just kill them, don’t even worry about eating them. O.K., go!
It seems our front-page article in last week’s issue “Rats run rampant in Tompkins, new park group says” has set off a nationwide news feeding frenzy. An elated Chad Marlow, founder of the new group Tompkins Square Park & Playgrounds Parents’ Association, called us Tuesday to report that he was being absolutely inundated with calls and e-mails from news media as a result of the article, written by ace reporter Aline Reynolds. The story was being picked up by WNBC news, he said, and a New York Post reporter who had somehow found Marlow’s unlisted address showed up on his doorstep to interview him. “I think my phone might have been hacked!” Marlow quipped of the Postie’s surprise appearance. In addition, Marlow got a phone call from the manager covering all Manhattan parks south of 14th St., who assured him they were working on the problem. “There’s no way I would have gotten that phone call if it wasn’t for The Villager article,” Marlow told us. “The WNBC guy did mention The Villager article. The Post guy didn’t — but I know that’s where he got it from.” By Wednesday, the story had exploded even further, going nationwide — coast to coast. Marlow called us back to thank us even more profusely than the first time, saying that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer had even picked up on the story about how the rodents have overrun Tompkins Square Park and its playground. “I knew from that article you did a few years ago that The New York Times tracked you and picked up your articles,” Marlow said, “but I’ve never seen anything like this!” As for why the story is going mega-viral, he figured, “Rats are sexy,” then, on second thought, he added, “Actually, they’re the antithesis of sexy — they’re disgusting!” But the story really “took wing,” literally, this week, when, in a new twist, it was reported that the reason for the rat explosion is that the Parks Department stopped baiting the park with rat poison in April for fear of poisoning the park’s lone red-tailed hawk. Without employing poison anymore, the only thing Parks has done to combat the rodents is to change the park’s garbage cans to garbage drums, and to scatter some wood chips on the ground (which the rats, no doubt, just guffaw at). Of course, our faithful readers will surely remember that it was none other than Lorcan Otway of St. Mark’s Theater 80 / the Gangster Museum who, a few years ago, first raised the cry in this newspaper about the red-tailed hawks potentially being killed by rat poison in the park, since they eat the rats. Umm, yeah, thanks a lot, Lorcan... . Meanwhile, East Village blogger Bob Arihood has been covering the frantic media deluge over the rat story, which he has dubbed “Ratstravaganza!” Actually, we first noticed the extent of the park’s rat infestation about a month ago when we were chatting with Arihood one night in the park at the corner of Seventh and A and the underbrush was literally alive — crawling with the varmints. The rugged blogger noted they sometimes run right over his feet. We were sitting on a bench another weekend, and one of the fearless critters zipped right under our feet. Anyway, Marlow said, his association subsequently got a call from the deputy chief of the Manhattan Parks borough commissioner, who confirmed that the rat population surge is due to federal regulations protecting the hawk. ... Yes, the raptor does eat the rats, and squirrels, too. But as one TV news reporter aptly put it, “The hawk does kill some rats — but with a rat problem like this, you would need a pterodactyl!” Marlow said someone recently e-mailed him a pitch for mint-scented garbage bags, saying rats hate mint — which is probably also why they have such bad breath. “Maybe we can throw firecrackers in their holes,” Marlow mused. “Are there mini-flame throwers?” This is starting to sound like “Caddyshack.” To be continued! ...
Park activist on the mend:
We phoned Jim Brennan this week to check up on how he was doing. A founder in the ’90s of Friends of Seravalli Playground and a Village resident for about 50 years, Brennan had been in Beth Israel Hospital after suffering a major heart attack in July 2010. “My health is improving every day,” he told Scoopy on Wednesday. “I should be up and back to normal soon.” Seravalli Playground, under reconstruction on Hudson St. between Gansevoort and Horatio Sts., is expected to reopen in October, a Parks Department spokesperson said this week. The adjacent Third City Water Tunnel access shaft project on Gansevoort St. has been under construction for a few years but completion isn’t expected until 2013.
Park plazas on the mend:
We received good news last week from Tobi Bergman, the Parks Committee chairperson of Community Board 2. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s Office told Bergman that funding is in place to refurbish Father Fagan Park on the east side of Sixth Ave. at Prince St. The funding will also cover work on Charlton Plaza, the green triangle on the west side of Sixth Ave. across the intersection. Father Fagan Park will get new lighting, pavement and curbs, as well as new trees and planted areas. The sidewalk in front of Charlton Plaza will be replaced and an irrigation system will be added in the plaza to keep the triangle green. Like Father Fagan Park, the sidewalk in front of Charlton Plaza is home to prodigious puddles after rains due to some seriously sunken spots. One night, one puddle was so capacious, we couldn’t help imagining what it would be like if someone released fish into it.
Pie Man digs Monkees:
Who did we see in the front row at last Thursday’s Monkees concert in Coney Island but Aron Kay, a.k.a. “The Yippie Pie Man.” Only three of the Monkees were there, but Kay was into it, and a couple of times security told the tie-dye-T-shirted Yippie activist to stop dancing in the aisle and sit down. But he couldn’t restrain himself when the group launched into their first breakout hit, “Last Train to Clarksville,” and he got up and started boogieing, while videoing, setting off a chain reaction of dancing through the crowd. We later Facebook e-mailed Kay and he said he certainly is a fan of the group. “Yes, I have followed the Monkees since 1966,” he said.