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Cat-astrophe! Locals say MTA trying to kill feral cat colony

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It may be these cats’ final stop.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is conspiring to starve a colony of feral cats living in a Bensonhurst subway station, according to locals trying to save them.

Cat-loving Bensonhursters has been lobbying for permission to remove the kitties for years, but the authority won’t give them access to the property beyond the platform of the N train’s Bay Parkway station.

Now the transportation monolith is even blocking caretakers’ efforts to feed the helpless animals, causing the cat lovers to bristle.

“It’s animal abuse,” said Jose Hidalgo, a retired teacher and cat rescuer. “The MTA wants to starve them. Their philosophy is if they starve them, they’ll get rid of them.”

The colony sits atop a small platform above subway tracks and adjacent to stairs near the station’s Avenue O entrance. Caretakers used to slip cat food through gaps between the stairs and the station walls, but on April 9 Metropolitan Transportation Authority workers essentially entombed the cats, covering the gaps with wire mesh, said Austin Torres, who feeds the ferals along with his sister Mary Ann.

Now Torres and Hidalgo are reduced to lobbing cold cuts up to the cats’ stairway-adjacent perch from the platform below to save them from certain death inside the cat-a-combs.

The authority denied allegations it aims to starve out the cat colony, saying through a spokeswoman that it installed the mesh merely to prevent litter from accumulating.

This is not the first time the borough’s cat caregivers have accused a faceless bureaucracy of trying to put the kibosh on Brooklyn’s cutest street-dwellers. The National Park Service almost sent dozens of cats to their deaths last year when it threatened to dismantle a kittie shanty town in Plumb Beach.

Hidalgo admits that just feeding the cats isn’t a permanent solution, and he has been trying to liberate the colony for years, but the authority won’t give him access he needs to lay traps, he said.

Instead, Hidalgo has managed to pull the youngest kitties to freedom through the gaps — before the authority sealed them, he said.

“Through a space of four inches I was able — with a rod and rope — to rope the babies,” Hidalgo said.

The self-proclaimed “cat cowboy” has wrangled and found homes for about 30 kittens this way, he said, noting that no kittens were harmed in the process.

Feline rescue organization Ferals in Peril helps Hidalgo neuter the newborns at a Bensonhurst black car dispatch, he said.

But a handful of adult cats remain, because they were too big to fit through the now-sealed breaches. Hidalgo wants the authority to let him set humane cage traps so he can permanently remove the animals from the precarious property. He has lobbied station managers and called 511 — the authority’s help line — to no avail, he said.

A spokeswoman for the authority clams it has not received any requests to remove the cats.

But in the past, the authority has suspended service to rescue animals in danger, she said, citing a 2013 incident that halted trains along the B and Q lines in Brooklyn when two kittens wandered onto the tracks.

“If animals are spotted on our property or tracks, we try our best to remove them without causing them injury,” said spokeswoman Marisa Baldeo.

The coterie of cat lovers will press on with attempts to liberate the entombed kitties, and has already found homes for the remaining mousers — even though feral cats are notoriously aloof, even by feline standards, Hidalgo said. But he doesn’t mind their stand-offishness.

“As long as they use the litter box, they don’t have to sit on my lap,” he said.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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