Saturday, February 16, 2008

New York City Parks Department Worker Accused of Killing Birds

The New York Times
February 16, 2008
Parks Worker Is Charged With Trying to Kill Birds

Around 3 p.m. on Friday, several people walking in Battery Park called 911 to report curious goings-on: a man driving a Parks Department golf cart was tearing erratically through a city park at 1 Whitehall Street.

As the calls came in, the police said, it emerged that the cart’s driving pattern may have been reckless, but it was not without purpose. The driver was apparently trying to run over as many birds as he could.

Officers responded, “and over the course of the investigation we uncovered videotape,” a Police Department spokesman said. Five birds were killed, the police said: three pigeons, two seagulls.

The authorities said the man at the wheel of the golf cart was Martin Hightower, a 45-year-old Parks Department employee. He was arrested and charged with two misdemeanors, reckless endangerment and intentional injury to animals. A Parks Department spokesman said Mr. Hightower had been suspended.

Mr. Hightower has been employed by the Parks Department since 2005 and was working as an enforcement patrol officer, said Adrian Benepe, the parks commissioner.

“They primarily concentrate on quality-of-life issues: illegal vending, not cleaning up after a dog,” he said. “They can make arrests and issue summonses. I haven’t seen the videotape yet, and I don’t want to prejudice the case, but if it’s true, it’s outrageous. In the Parks Department we’re supposed to be protecting nature and wildlife.”

He went on: “I can’t recall anything like this. Occasionally we’ll write a ticket for somebody who’s letting their dog chase pigeons. A few years ago, there was an employee at the zoo who was scalding monkeys. This is something we take very seriously.”

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