Sheepshead Bay

Cymbrowitz not mute on state plan to kill swans

February 17, 2016 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz sent this image out for Valentine’s Day to remind everyone that swans are a symbol of love. Image courtesy of Cymbrowitz’s office

A plan by New York state to reduce the population of mute swans is getting a loud rebuttal from a Sheepshead Bay lawmaker who said his constituents enjoy seeing the birds on the waterfront and want the graceful creatures to be preserved.

Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Sheepshead Bay-Brighton Beach), who introduced legislation to save the mute swans two years ago, said he has reintroduced his bill.

Last week, Cymbrowitz reintroduced legislation that would establish a moratorium on the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) plan to declare the mute swan a “prohibited invasive species” and kill many of the birds by 2025.

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DEC’s methods of population control include shooting and gassing, according to Cymbrowitz, who is a member of the Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee (ECC).

The mute swan is a favorite with Sheepshead Bay residents who like to watch the birds in the bay near Emmons Avenue, Cymbrowitz said.

Cymbrowitz first launched an outcry two years ago when DEC officials announced a plan to kill the swans because of the damage they do to flora and fauna. But Cymbrowitz said the issue should be further examined because environmentalists have refuted DEC’s claims.

“There is no hard and clear evidence that mute swans are the kind of dangerous and damaging presence that DEC suggests,” Cymbrowitz said. “As far as my constituents are concerned, they’re beautiful birds and the official policy should be ‘live and let live.’”

Cymbrowitz worked with the ECC to review the legislation and decided to reintroduce it without any changes.

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State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Queens) has reintroduced the measure in the Senate.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has vetoed the bill twice.

In 2015, DEC released a revised swan management plan that called for population control in certain areas of the state. Cymbrowitz objected to the revised plan and charged that DEC was still calling for the elimination of most of the mute swan population.

Cymbrowitz’s battle to save the swans has attracted the attention of animal advocacy organizations like GooseWatch NYC, the Regal Swan Foundation and Save Our Swans, whose members inundated Cuomo’s office with letters and phone calls asking for a reprieve for the swans.

In the 2015 report, DEC called the mute swan “a non-native, ‘invasive’ species” that can cause adverse impacts on the environment.

While beautiful to look at, mute swans are often aggressive toward other birds, especially other waterfowl during the nesting and brood-rearing periods, according to the DEC report, which said that in extreme cases, the swans have been known to attack and kill ducklings, goslings or other small water birds.

Mute swans can sometimes cause problems for people, the DEC reported. Adult swans will attack humans if they get too close to nests or young swans, according to the DEC report.

Other interesting tidbits in the DEC report: Mute swans are not native to North America. They were imported from Europe during the late 19th century by wealthy landowners to beautify estates on Long Island and in the Hudson Valley. The swans began nesting in the wild in New York state in the early 20th century. The population of mute swans in the state has grown to more than 2,000 birds.

In its report, the DEC laid out a plan that officials said would strive to minimize “the occurrence of mute swans in important fish and wildlife habitats while permitting their continued presence in urban parks and other controlled settings.”

The full DEC report can be found at http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/wildlife_pdf/muteswanmgmtpln2015.pdf.

 


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