Alternatives to park feeding ban


EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a letter sent to city council Speaker Corey Johnson from Nick Curto, outreach chair of the Friends of NYC Park Wildlife, regarding the proposed wildlife feeding ban in city parks.

Dear Speaker Corey Johnson:

We would like to sincerely convey to you the fact that feeding the squirrels and birds in New York City parks is, for many of us New Yorkers of all ages — from very young children to senior citizens — a very happy and important part of our lives. It connects us with a little piece of nature that heals and brings us joy.

Feeding squirrels and birds teaches the young a respect for life and kindness. The ban would take all that away from us. That is why we are organizing and doing everything that we can possibly do to stop the ban once and for all. The ban is mean-spirited, and also totally unnecessary.

Feeding a hungry squirrel or bird does not in any way attract rats. A squirrel takes one little nut at a time and eats all of it, and only discards the nutshell, which is biodegradable. Little birds always eat all of the small seeds, and there are no seeds left. However, we all have seen the garbage container overflows all over the city parks near the food restaurants and food carts, which indeed do attract the rats. More frequent garbage pickup and much better designed garbage containers that are rat-proof are needed to solve the problem.

It’s that simple and clear.

One final thought: New York City park food dispensers are a solution. The correct kind of nuts or seeds that are healthy for the squirrels and birds to eat that people can buy for 25 cents at park food dispensers conveniently located at park entrances.

These food dispensers with important wildlife food information printed on them are both educational as well as self-sustaining, and the money raised not only would fully support the food dispensers outreach project, but also help get the message out about what food should be given to park’s wildlife.

This is a win/win situation for both the wildlife and the parks that need food to survive, as well as the folks who enjoy feeding the squirrels and birds. Many parks and zoos worldwide already have installed food dispensers with great success. It’s high time that New York City parks have them too — and the sooner, the better.

Nick Curto

Nick Curto,