Parks Department says Prospect Park lake is clean

During her rapid decline, John Boy curled up into a fetal position.
Susan Yuen

The lake in Prospect Park was given a clean bill of health by the city’s environmental agency — but the findings were immediately criticized by wildlife lovers who believe that the waterway has become toxic and deadly after two weeks of mysterious dumping of chicken heads and animal entrails.

The fortnight of terror climaxed with the death of John Boy, one of the lake’s beloved swans, though Park officials have said she was killed by a rival waterfowl, not by the foul conditions in the lake.

“Samples from Prospect Park Lake were normal and there was no indication of any substances that could endanger wildlife in or around the lake,” said Eugene Patron, a Prospect Park spokesman.

The tests — carried out separately by the Department of Environmental Protection and a team from Brooklyn College — “confirmed a healthy ecosystem,” according to Patron.

Some swan-lovers remained skeptical of the results, and insisted that the tests — which were carried out after the torrential downpour of last week — were not indicative of the filthy state of the lake.

“The city has effectively taken samples of the rain water out of the lake for testing,” said Anne-Katrin Titze, a professor of Literature at Hunter College who visits the park daily. “Is there no shame? The test does not measure the conditions at the lake when we discovered the dead animals.”

Titze, along with her companion, Ed Bahlman, has recently become an outspoken critic of the park as a bizarre series of animal deaths, fires, and disgusting animal guts have swept through the western edge of the lake.

“The lake was tested two weeks too late to save the animals,” said Titze, referencing the opossums, turtle, fish, and ultimately, one of the park’s celebrity swans — John Boy — which all met their demise in roughly one week, all in the same area.

Bahlman added, “It took what happened to John Boy and the other animals to spur action.”

But after two weeks of inaction in response to at least two fires that burnt swathes of reeds along the lake, as well as the appearance of chicken heads and other assorted viscera floating on the edge of the lake, the park said it would be ramping up security in the area.

“Parks Department personnel and the New York City Police Department have heightened their surveillance of the lake and adjacent areas of the Park,” Patron said.

In addition, Patron promised that any other animals that turned up dead in the area would be tested — a clear change in policy from previous weeks, when a dead duck, along with many other creatures, were thrown in the trash. John Boy, whose cause of death remains highly debated, was cremated before a thorough autopsy could be carried out, fueling additional conspiracy theories.

“That’s a major positive change in policy,” Bahlman said.

Despite all the unanswered questions, Patron reiterated that the grisly goings-on were in line with the normal course of events as winter gives way to spring.

“The recent death of a swan … is thought to have been the result of injuries the animal sustained during a fight with another swan — swans are highly territorial birds, especially during the spring mating season,” Patron said.

He added, “Similarly, the remains of a few other animals found in the park in the last few weeks … are in keeping with the normal course of wildlife mortality in a large, urban park at the end of a difficult winter.”

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