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May 7, 2010 / Brooklyn news / Park Slope / Meadows of Shame

Death stalks Prospect Park again as a dead possum is found

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The Grim Reaper has plied his deadly trade by the lake in Prospect Park yet again this week, leaving in his wake a dead raccoon, a possum and several gosling — whose corpses all showed up on the same day that we reported that the federal government had given Prospect Park an environmental award!

Since late March, park-goers have found severed chicken heads, animal guts and the decomposed remains of fish, turtles and possums among eight scorched patches of weeds that regular park goers believe are set by vandals.

Park officials say they are concerned about garbage and animal dumping near the lake, but emphasize that animals often die from natural causes.

“Has anything about the Park’s environment truly changed in the last year? All the experts all say no,” said Prospect Park Alliance spokesman Patron.

Local bird-watchers agree.

“The Prospect Park lake is in very good condition and the water is in no way dangerous,” said Glenn Phillips, the executive director of NYC Audubon. “It’s not a pristine Adirondack mountain lake, but it’s never going to be.

“Deaths at the park are common, Phillips added. “It’s heartbreaking, but it’s the nature of things.”

It’s certainly been the nature of Prospect Park this summer. Before this week’s body count, a dead dog was found floating in the lake. And last month, John Boy, one of the lake’s beloved swans, also died, though park officials maintain that she was the victim of swan-on-swan violence.

The lake’s death toll grew so large so fast that area wildlife activists pushed the city to check the waters for toxins — but tests conducted by the Department of Environmental Protection and an independent team from Brooklyn College cleared the lake itself of any wrongdoing.

Parks Department officials promised to conduct necropsies on any animals found dead in the lake, but have said in the last two cases that the animals were too badly decomposed.

Still, the grisly discoveries at the man-made oasis do frighten some parkgoers.

“Mammals are dying in the lake,” claimed Ed Bahlman, a layman who watched as Parks Department employees removed the raccoon from its watery grave. The second corpse, a furry four legged creature that’s believed to be a possum, was pulled out of the lake by the Boathouse, just paces away from where a young couple rested out on a blanket, taking in some sun. The gosling — baby geese, if you will — was found near the other side of the lake.

Then there’s all the trash. When we took a leisurely stroll of the lake Wednesday morning, we found a discarded vodka bottle bobbing near a basking turtle. There was also a host of empty bottles, potato chip bags, candy wrappers and submerged garbage cans and orange traffic cones lining the lake.

It wasn’t a pretty scene.

“This is sad,” said surprised sun worshipper Salem McVoy. “Especially with so many kids playing around here.”

Patron promised action — and soon.

“We’ll get to work on the garbage,” he said. “But the Park’s ecosystem is not dangerous, damaged or unhealthy.”

Updated 12:46 pm, May 10, 2010: Re-edited to provide more balance.
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Reader Feedback

Allan from Windsor Terrace says:
Thank goodness someone is watching out for the lake.
If it takes a layman to find and report the dead animals, then we need more laymen looking out for the health of the environment waterside.
All the paid experts do is speak the party line.
The children who visit the lake are the ones most vulnerable when a potential health risk is swept under the soiled rug.
May 7, 2010, 1:47 pm
Tarruck from Fort Greene says:
1) There are plenty of laymen testing the water. The Audubon center runs a citizen science program in which students examine the lake's aquatic conditions.
2) It's tap water! Yes, the lake is filled with city water that we all drink.
3) The swans are INVASIVE. That is to say, they don't belong in the lake in the first place.
4) More dead animals is a positive sign that there are more animals. Several years ago the park fenced off a lot of the natural areas, allowing animal populations to safely grow inside.
5) The garbage in the lake is inexcusable, but we as citizens should share the blame with the parks department.
May 7, 2010, 2:09 pm
Michele S from Kensington says:
RATS are the only ones cleaning Prospect Park these days! Even though they're breeding as fast as they can, even they can't keep up with the ever increasing loads of garbage literally killing this precious, potentially awesome place. Those responsible for overseeing the environmental health of the Park are either shockingly ignorant and/or completely incompetent and as a result, the park is slowly but surely turning into a TOXIC WASTE DUMP. It is now a serious health risk for wild animals living there as well as people who visit with their dogs and children. Children must be warned not to dip their hands in the lake. Dogs must be kept away from used diapers, burning coals, bone shards and other deadly garbage. All current Prospect Park Administrators should be ashamed! They deserve to be run out of town!
May 7, 2010, 3:12 pm
sheila from plg says:
Why wasn't the raccoon tested? It wasn't badly decomposed.
May 7, 2010, 3:25 pm
SMarcus from PLG says:
I walked through the park today. I didn't see any trash. Just lots of people enjoying the park. There might be some garbage. But I wouldn't say that a few empty soda bottles and candy wrappers (or even an abandon TV) constitutes a toxic waste dump. I think it's unrealistic to expect a shared public space to be completely free of any litter. I see park staff picking up trash almost every morning. Prospect Park is beautiful, safe and very healthy. Keep up the good work!
May 7, 2010, 6:23 pm
john from ditmas says:
Thank you Tarruck from Fort Greene for giving the parks department
standard reply for everything. I assume you are connected with the parks.
Let me reply to your points one by one.
1) if the water is being tested why are the results not available?
repeated attempts to get any results have been stonewalled by
park authorities.
2) Not every thing in the pond comes from the official sources.
Even if you are correct about the ultimate source of the water, there
are other effectors. If you doubt this, I am willing to meet you any day in the park and I will challenge you to drink the pond water from
some sites I have selected. Tap water puf!
3) Swans don't belong in the lake? can you even hear yourself?
by your logic humans don't "belong" in the park!!!!!!!!!
We, the people who use prospect park, cherish the swans.
Not everything should be decided by your extremely limited
ideas of what belongs. Open up your eyes!!
4) "More dead animals is a positive sign". This has to be the
most ridiculous statement. So if all the animals died that would be even more positive!
5) I, a citizen, remove garbage from the lake every day, and I have never seen anyone from the parks department actually
getting their hands wet in the lake. Could this be because they
have actually seen the results of the tests that they deny us
citizens!
May 7, 2010, 9:42 pm
john from ditmas says:
"Patron promised action — and soon."

Don't hold your breath.
May 7, 2010, 10:13 pm
sheila from plg says:
Anyone who thinks that the Park is clean, and that dead animals floating belly up is natural knows nothing of nature. Humans are the invasive species - skating rinks are invasive - fishing line is invasive - I could go on, and I will at a later date.
Sigh.
May 7, 2010, 11:07 pm
Robert from Windsor says:
Glenn Phillips, Audubon director is not aware of how much damage the lake has suffered. The lack of care and effort put in towards maintaining the existing watercourse by parks is obvious.
May 8, 2010, 8:06 am
Carl from Park Slope says:
Glenn Phillips is not well informed when he states: “The Prospect Park lake is in very good condition"

The lake is used by Parks and Recreation as a garbage dump.
Is the executive director of NYC Audubon saying, that dead fish, dead turtles, dead birds, dead four-legged animals are commonly found in the lake over a 24 hour period?
The lake and park environment is not in good condition.
May 8, 2010, 10:11 am
Mark from Windsor Terrace says:
I would like Glenn Phillips to explain as the Audubon director, the decay of the watercourse from years of neglect by the Prospect Park Alliance.
The landscape lakeside has eroded so severely that most trees roots are exposed.
The Alliance's only response was to dump piles of mulch randomly and haphazardly, alongside the already destroyed stonework that once was called the lake's edge.
In addition, the wildlife habitat has been greatly compromised through fires, uncollected waste, and very poor aquatic ecology management.
May 8, 2010, 10:54 am
K from SP says:
The problems in the park stem from an invasive species of primate that infested most of the continental united states a few hundred years ago. I hear that traps and poisons can be used to control them, but like cockroaches, they're impossible to eliminate.

I do agree with Tarruck; if you are seeing dead animals that means there are a lot more live ones that you aren't seeing. They're not immortal, you know. The real question is whether they are dying of natural causes or from attacks by the aforementioned primates. Easy enough to determine from a visual inspection of the remains.

The principal contaminate in those waters is fertilizer runoff from the lawns. This causes the algae blooms that you see every year that turn the water murky green. Not good for the health of the water, or it's inhabitants. If I could change anything about the way the park is run, I would have them ease off on the fertilizer. Also, restricting primate access as they have done is an excellent thing and should be extended.
May 8, 2010, 12:44 pm
bonita from PLG says:
All these dead animals are a shame....what is killing them? One dead gosling could lead to many others. We don't need it to be as clean as an Adirondack lake, but this is a far cry from that....how hard could it be to clean up the garbage a bit??? really pathetic.
May 9, 2010, 12:41 am
Lyn from Bklyn says:
Thanks to Anne & Ed for all they are doing to raise awareness about the pond situation! My class of 23 four- year-olds will be there in Prospect Park Tuesday morning spreading the word as well!
May 10, 2010, 3:23 pm
trace from park slope says:
somehow I don't think a possum on the verge of death from old age is going to go to the lake,and then fall in, stone dead..repubs have taught us so well, how to turn common sense on it's head, and to attack from weakness..really sad.
May 11, 2010, 7:51 am
Michele from Kensington says:
The new park administrator whould should a gradute depres in eccology, envrionmental studies and be sensitiive to all park visisters and full-time inhabitants. The person should be enrirely different thanTupper T and Julius S. who lacked all of the above qualities. Prospect park will be grave danger of turning into a TOXIC WASTE DUMP unless these current incompetats are removed asap. The greatest responsibiltiy of a park admisistrator is to maintain and improve the ecological health of our Park. This is no time for more cronism. We need people, educated in biology and sensitive to keeping the entire park as healthy as possible for all concertn. Start by tearing up the parking lot being build on the one Beautiful Breeze Hill.
May 11, 2010, 1:25 pm
Carl from Park Slope says:
Mr. Glenn Phillips inability to come to terms with the sad shape of a major section of Prospect Park is startling.
No one agrees with you who is aware of the ongoing mismanagement of the park's resources.
This has taken years of neglect and lack of planning for the lake and its shoreline to be in such disrepair.
May 13, 2010, 9:55 am
Colin from Windsor Terrace says:
The Audubon spokesperson Glenn Phillips is "lost at sea."
Take a walk around (the lake) what you call "very good condition" and explain to us how it got this way, when the lake environment has been neglected by you and others for years.
May 14, 2010, 11:35 am

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