Fate of Sheepshead Bay’s mute swans up in the air

December 1, 2015 Anna Spivak
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It’s another swan song for Sheepshead Bay.

Despite overwhelming opposition from Brooklynites, animal activists and legislators, a bill that would protect the area’s beloved mute swans — slated for extermination by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), which has declared them a “prohibited invasive species” — has been vetoed by Governor Andrew Cuomo  for the second time in two years.

“Obviously this isn’t the outcome we were hoping for,” said Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz, a member of the Environmental Conservation Committee and the bill’s sponsor, “especially after the bill passed both houses overwhelmingly two years in a row and so many advocates fought hard on the legislation’s behalf.”

Last year’s veto of the bill came from concerns that the legislation might conflict with DEC’s plans to revise its original mute swan management goals, potentially making them less deadly, according to Cymbrowitz’s office.

As this paper previously reported, the original plan called for the elimination of the swans entirely. The revised plan, released in 2014, sought to allow some of the swans to be raised in captivity, with the DEC also looking into ways to achieve its management goals through non-lethal means.

After learning that the DEC still planned to eliminate about two-thirds of the swan population statewide in its revised plans, Cymbrowitz blasted the agency, saying, “Leave the swans alone. That should be the policy. Enough already.”

The DEC recently underwent  a change of leadership— it is now headed by Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos— leading Cymbrowitz to hope the agency will have a “change of heart” regarding the state’s mute swan policy.

Nonetheless, Cymbrowitz plans to re-introduce the bill during the upcoming legislative season.

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