The sound of a rooster crowing might evoke a certain range of feelings. Perhaps the desire to wake up and start a new day. Maybe even the image of a pastoral scene of a farm upstate.
But for Judith Veder, it’s a sound that summons dread. Especially when she hears it before 5 a.m.
It’s been part of her reality for quite a while now, as one of her Ploughmans Bush neighbors off of Independence Avenue apparently has been keeping a rooster as a pet. The bird lives in what Veder describes as a “residence” outside. And it’s from that residence — much to her chagrin — the rooster heralds the beginning of each new day.
Veder can’t exactly remember when she first became aware of her cocky new neighbor. But it must have been recently, because she recalls opening her windows to get some fresh air into her home as the weather warmed.
She got fresh air, of course. But she also got much more than she bargained for when she first heard the rooster’s crowing — something one doesn’t quite expect living in a city where nowhere is more urban than here. And ever since, it’s been a nuisance for her and for some of her neighbors — although some are a bit more sympathetic to their new crowing resident than Veder is.
“Someone said he’s very happy to hear it,” Veder said. “He feels it’s bucolic or something. But I’m up every morning at 4 or 5 o’clock hearing it.”
It’s not that Veder is anti-rooster, however. She is, after all, a devout birdwatcher. But she maintains there’s a strict difference between birdwatching and bird-hearing. And a rooster crowing early in the morning isn’t exactly what she wants to hear.
And of course, there’s the matter of the law. Because by city standards, Veder’s neighbors are breaking it.
“There are about four houses right at Ploughmans Bush,” Veder said. “How come they don’t hear it and complain? It’s the most horrible sound. And the fact is, it’s illegal.”
The city’s 311 information website lists 83 animals which are illegal to own as pets in the city. Roosters are among those explicitly mentioned, along with other birds like geese, ducks, turkeys, hawks, emus, ostriches and “other large or predatory birds.” The law also forbids city residents from owning “most farm animals,” including sheep, goats and pigs.
But interestingly enough, city residents are allowed to keep hens as pets. Just not their male counterparts, perhaps due to the crowing that plagues the neighbors of Ploughmans Bush.
Veder filed two complaints with 311 about her crowing neighbor so far. Her first claim was denied, and the second is still pending.
Veder also contacted Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz’s office to draw attention to the issue. And although he’s been in office since 1994, this was definitely a new and unique complaint for the longtime lawmaker.
“I have to say, I think this is my first rooster in all these years,” Dinowitz said.
“We’ve had skunks. We’ve had raccoons. We’ve had beehives and hornets’ nests. I personally saw … a possum recently in our neighborhood. But this is our first rooster case.”
While there isn’t much corrective action an elected official’s office can take in a situation like this, Dinowitz said he and his office could play the role of community advocate. In short, tons of 311 calls and complaints are made every day in the city, and many of them — like Veder’s — can fall by the wayside as a result.
So when neighborhood residents complain to their elected officials, Dinowitz said, they can maybe get the ball rolling for their constituents a little quicker, as opposed to them being stuck in a red tape purgatory.
In this case, Dinowitz reached out to the city’s health department.
“While it should be the case that when an individual calls on something, it gets done, the fact is it doesn’t always get addressed,” Dinowitz said. “I know that this past year, getting the Department of Health to do things that aren’t directly COVID-related was obviously challenging, because they really concentrated on that. But it’s my understanding that they will address” the rooster.
However, it seems Dinowitz’s attempt at intervention wasn’t all too necessary, as Veder was finally able to connect with the neighbor who owns the feathered friend — or fiend. The neighbor said they planned to get rid of the rooster before the end of the month.
And as of Tuesday, all seemed quiet on the cul-de-sac, Veder said, as she hadn’t woken up to crowing for the past few days.
Although, she noted, there seemed to be more than a few hens living in the rooster residence — but they seem to be notably quieter than the other notorious tenant.
Veder can’t fully confirm whether her neighbor made good on their promise to get rid of the rooster. But she’s hopeful the promise wasn’t empty, and that she might be able to continue sleeping in for the rest of the summer.