Tag Archives: Manhattan

In a Mystery, a Baby Black Bear Is Found Dead in Central Park

New York Times, October 7th, 2014


The furry black mass lay hidden under a bush near Central Park’s main loop, unnoticed, unmoving and partially concealed by an abandoned bicycle. A dog rustling in the brush drew the first eyes to the bush and a sight rarely, if ever, found in modern Manhattan: a baby black bear, dead.

A call to 911 followed and soon yellow police tape cordoned off the area near West 69th Street as detectives found themselves facing a mysterious crime scene on a sunny Monday morning.

How the animal, a three-foot-long female, got to that spot remained a mystery at day’s end: a cub, probably born this year, somehow separated from her mother and from anything resembling a natural habitat.

Bears have not been seen outside captivity in the park in recent memory. History records the shooting of a wild black bear in Manhattan, but it was several centuries ago. “This is a highly unusual situation,” said Elizabeth Kaledin, a spokeswoman for the Central Park Conservancy. “It’s awful.”

The police described the bear as having had trauma to her body, but it was not immediately clear how she had died.

“The mouth was open and it looked bloody,” said Florence Slatkin, 79, who found the bear while walking her dog, a Chihuahua mix named Paco, with a friend near her Upper West Side home. “At first, I thought it was a raccoon.” She said her friend’s dog first drew their attention to the bicycle before they noticed the dead animal by one wheel.

Nearby, New Yorkers increasingly familiar with wildlife sightings — a coyote in the park, a dolphin off Throgs Neck in the Bronx — offered theories of their own. Some suspected foul play. Others guessed an accident with a car. One man confidently pronounced the bear old enough to have wandered over from Morris County, N.J.

For several hours, detectives with the Police Department’s Animal Cruelty Investigation Squad pored over the grass and bushes near the bustling central drive, searching for clues and trying to determine how the bear had ended up in the park and whether she could have been alive when she arrived.

Lucas Altman told the police that he believed one of his two black Labradors had sniffed the bear during their walk Sunday night. An officer told him the bear appeared to have been dragged to the spot where she was found. “They don’t at this moment think the bear wandered there on its own,” Mr. Altman said, suggesting nefarious human involvement.

Perhaps that is how the bear evaded notice — in life and in death — as it came to rest in a section of the park usually packed with tourists, bicycle riders and pedestrians but barren of large wildlife. After finding the body around 9:30 a.m., Ms. Slatkin alerted members of the park’s staff, who called the police.

Black bear populations have grown in recent years around the city, particularly in New Jersey, where they have no natural predators, said Patrick R. Thomas, associate director of the Bronx Zoo, run by the Wildlife Conservation Society. Bears once roamed the city, but had not done so for quite some time, he said. “There’s a record of one being shot in Manhattan in 1630,” he said.

By late afternoon, a park ranger in orange gloves and a detective secured the bear’s body in a tarp and placed it in a car bound for a suburb of Albany where the State Department of Environmental Conservation’s wildlife pathology unit was to determine the cause of death.

State law prohibits bears from being kept as pets, and Ms. Kaledin said there were currently no bears in the Central Park Zoo, though an exhibit with two grizzly bears is to open there soon.

Giovanna Di Bernardo, who lives nearby, described the bear’s appearance, not to mention her death, as “puzzling.”

She had seen plenty of weird things on her regular walks in the park. A rabid raccoon for instance. But this, she said, this she would put at the top of the list.

Levees Could Protect Lower Manhattan From Future Floods

CurbedNY, June 9th, 2014


If another Sandy-like storm hits New York City, the city government wants southern Manhattan to be much better protected than it was during the devastating 2012 hurricane, from which recovery is still incomplete. So, the New York City Economic Development Corporation and the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency have an idea—they could not stress enough that this is just an idea—to extend Manhattan with a 1.3-mile-long living barrier made up of a multi-purpose levee system. Manhattan would be extended by fill, on top of which parkland, residential buildings, and office buildings would be built. This proposal was previously called Seaport City, but the moniker caused confusion about the plan—people thought, naturally, it would be a new neighborhood, like Battery Park City—and there is no mention of the name in the new study.

First: what is a multi-purpose levee? The report says:

An MPL is a high and wide standard river embankment, or a wall or bank of earth or stone, that is built to prevent flooding and designed to withstand flood overtopping [ed. note: this is when water rises over the top of a barrier]. In traditional designs, MPLs are passive, earthen levees that are about 30 times as wide as they are high. MPLs are designed to have an extended, gradual slope behind what would otherwise be a traditional levee on the edge of a water body. The extended slope essentially raises the land behind the traditional levee, providing structural reinforcement and a stable region that can be developed. This design allows for overtopping without complete failure because flowing water does not breach the levee but rather flows slowly across its top surface.
The levee system would run 1.3 miles from Whitehall Street at the Battery up the East River to Montgomery Street on the Lower East Side. Dan Zarrilli, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s director for ORR, told a small group of reporters on Thursday that these levees would be more practical and less intrusive than the idea of long system of very tall vertical barriers. Zarrilli said the city government wants us to remain a coastal harbor city.

Essentially, the island would be extended by fill, on top of which would be parkland, residential buildings, office buildings, and possibly more—that’s what is meant by “multi-purpose.” The basic land reclamation idea would mean a 250-foot extension at points, and further expansion could bring the extension to 500 feet if a platform were added. The report includes photos of MPLs in cities in the Netherlands and Japan, showing that the land closest to the water is used as public space, and the new buildings are on the opposite side of the slope.

It’s hoped that this system would protect southern Manhattan from a flood of 19 feet, which would be possible if a Sandy-like storm hit again in 100 years. Zarrilli said they can’t make the city “flood proof,” but “we can protect ourselves.”

The three biggest questions EDC and ORR wanted answered before proceeding to even propose this idea were 1: Would it work? 2: Was there a viable legal and environmental framework for it? and 3: Would there be a way to finance it?

Zarrilli said the answer to all of those was yes. They determined that not only would this system protect Manhattan, it would also not produce additional flooding across the East River. On the environment and legal issues, it would be a complex process, but not impossible. He said that financing would most likely be accomplished by a public/private partnership.

What’s next for this idea? There is quite a lot of environmental study still to be done and a lot has been done for the lengthy feasibility study (which you can read for yourself here). But first the city will be reaching out to the public. Zarrilli appeared before Community Board 1’s Planning Committee on Thursday evening and the idea will be presented to Community Board 3 in the near future. Plus other public hearings will no doubt be planned.

Lovely day

Em and I had a lovely day in Manhattan. We started early getting breakfast in town and taking it with us. We went to lunch at a restaurant she had a Groupon for called Ashton’s Alley. Very nice restaurant good food. Then we got massages, a place I had a Groupon for Graceful Spa or Services. Then it was time for Em to get her nails done and I got my broken nail fixed.

The nail technician was laughing when I told her how, I broke the nail when I fell and it was the worst part of my fall. “People were saying, ‘Are you all right?’ and I was saying, ‘Who cares? I broke a nail!”

Oh wait, between the massage and nail appointment we went to Annie Moore’s and had a drink, shared an appetizer and dessert.

Then home, cause I was tired.