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Bridge Park: These goats will not face the slaughterhouse like last herd

To the rescue: Brooklyn Bridge Park is using four goats from upstate New York to kill its weed problem in the Pier 3 uplands.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

The kids are all right.

Brooklyn Bridge Park is welcoming a new crew of goats to weed its verdant condo-filled fields this summer — two years after locals were shocked to see the last billies to graze in the green space leaving in a butchers’ truck. The new flock, however, will not be goats for the slaughter, park officials claim — they’re highly skilled workers with long careers ahead of them.

“These are goats that have been trained to eat weeds and will be eating weeds into old age,” said Rebecca McMackin, Brooklyn Bridge Park’s director of horticulture. “They are not dairy goats and they are not goats for eating, they’re absolutely going back to the farm.”

The park is renting the four new Nubian goats — brothers Horatio, Eyebrows, Minnie, and Hector — from upstate farm Green Goats for two months, during which time they will devour invasive plants on a steep hill near Pier 3.

By contrast, the 2014 herd were unskilled, unwitting performers in an art installation near the Manhattan Bridge, and came from a Queens slaughterhouse. Organizers also denied those goats were headed back to the abattoir, even after the butcher came to retrieve them, claiming they would live out their days on an “educational farm.”

Some critics are also questioning why the park is now using cheap animal labor instead of paying actual workers to weed the hill, but McMackin claims they’re the logical candidates for the job, because less sure-footed humans would take far too long.

The goats also have the added bonus of dropping free, all-natural fertilizer as they work, she said — an act that’s generally frowned upon for people.

“It’s the most ecologically sustainable method of weeding the berm,” she said, referring to the man-made hill.

During their tenure, the animals will sleep in a shed at the foot of the hill, which McMackin says is for their own safety. A sheep herder will look after them during the day, though the park still hasn’t hired one, she said.

Park-goers can’t play with the goats, as they have a job to do, but they can view the hired hoofs from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade or through a fence along a nearby path that runs through the park.

The living lawn mowers are an increasingly popular option for parks looking to do some weed-whacking in precarious locations — Green Goats is also renting out eight animals to Prospect Park this summer.

But not everyone is sold — the Parks Department recently categorically refused to consider deploying them on the weed-covered roof of the Carmine Carro Community Center in Marine Park.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

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