Feral cats deployed in war on rats

Click to enlargeRuth Fremson/NY Times

❝ Multitudes of feral cats roam New York City’s concrete jungle, and some now have a practical purpose: They’re helping curb the city’s rat population.

❝ A group of volunteers trained by the NYC Feral Cat Initiative traps wild cat colonies that have become a nuisance or been threatened by construction, then spays or neuters and vaccinates them. The goal is to return them to their home territory, but some end up in areas rife with rats.

Feline rat patrols keep watch over city delis and bodegas, car dealerships and the grounds of a Greenwich Village church. Four cats roam the loading dock at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, where food deliveries and garbage have drawn rodents for years…

❝ About 6,000 volunteers have completed workshops where they’ve learned proper ways to trap cats.

The program is run through the privately funded Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, a coalition of more than 150 animal rescue groups and shelters. It estimates as many as half a million feral and stray cats roam New York’s five boroughs…

❝ The cat population is controlled through spaying and neutering, provided free of charge by the Humane Society of New York and the ASPCA. In most cases, adoption is out of the question for feral cats because they are just too wild to be domesticated.

Thanks to the volunteers, says Marshall, “we’re protecting wildlife in the city, and the cats get a second chance at life.”

Interesting anecdotes in the article – and a common sense approach to feral urban animals. Spayed, neutered, and most important, vaccinated, they stand a chance for a complete lifespan.

Our Immigrants, Our Strength

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Life jackets along the NYC waterfront — a reminder

❝ World leaders are gathering in New York this week for the United Nations General Assembly, and at the top of their agenda sits a refugee crisis that has reached a level of urgency not seen since World War II. The United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants and President Obama’s Leaders’ Summit on Refugees represent a watershed moment that is putting a global spotlight on the need for an effective response to a growing humanitarian crisis…

❝ As the mayors of three great global cities — New York, Paris and London — we urge the world leaders assembling at the United Nations to take decisive action to provide relief and safe haven to refugees fleeing conflict and migrants fleeing economic hardship, and to support those who are already doing this work.

We will do our part, too. Our cities pledge to continue to stand for inclusivity, and that is why our cities support services and programs that help all residents, including our diverse immigrant communities, feel welcome, so that every resident feels part of our great cities…

❝ Investing in the integration of refugees and immigrants is not only the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do. Refugees and other foreign-born residents bring needed skills and enhance the vitality and growth of local economies, and their presence has long benefited our three cities.

❝ Our cities are also on the front lines of helping those fleeing violence or persecution connect to critical, often lifesaving, services. Paris is one of the first major municipalities to open a refugee center in the heart of the city. Beginning in October, the center will provide services and basic necessities, as well as administrative support, to 400 refugees. New York has placed city representatives in immigration court to connect the thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America seeking asylum to crucial health, education and other social services. Last year London boroughs provided support to more than 1,000 unaccompanied, asylum-seeking children, and the city is now developing new ways of working with communities to offer support to resettled refugees.

❝ We know policies that embrace diversity and promote inclusion are successful. We call on world leaders to adopt a similar welcoming and collaborative spirit on behalf of the refugees all over the world during the summit meeting this week. Our cities stand united in the call for inclusivity. It is part of who we are as citizens of diverse and thriving cities.

RTFA for the details. This was published by the mayors of New York City, Paris and London. Not only cities for the successful – but, for the people of those cities trying to build anew.

Mapping a city’s microbes with bees

You share more than a zip code with your neighbors. You also share bugs — microscopic organisms (think bacteria, fungi, and viruses). These microbial communities are called microbiomes, and they seem to have an impact on everything from digestion to allergies. They also happen to be everywhere — from your intestines to your phone’s screen to the sidewalk beneath your feet.

But those bugs are tough to understand, because you can’t see them. “There’s like this whole other invisible planet,” says Kevin Slavin, head of the Playful Systems group at the MIT Media Lab. In a new project called Holobiont Urbanism, Slavin’s team is working to sample, sequence, and visualize the microbial makeup of New York City. Some of the team members are designers, engineers, and biologists.

Some of them are bees.

Bees typically forage no more than a mile and a half from their hives, but in their expeditions they come into contact with the microbes in their range, and those microbes stick. Slavin’s group worked with apiarists to build beehives with removable trays at the bottom that collect detritus from the bees, like a crumb-catcher in a toaster. Then they put those hives all over Brooklyn and Queens (and Sydney, Melbourne, Venice, and Tokyo).

Researchers can gather up all those bee-crumbs and sequence the DNA they find. Subtract the bee genes and what’s left represents the neighborhood microbiome. Slavin’s team mapped all those genes into a a circular evolutionary tree…but for specific urban areas. They also mapped microbes to their homes. New York City and Sydney, for example, both harbor the genera Polaromonas, Sphingopyxis, and Alicycliphilus, all of which feed on pollutants. But Venice has Meyerozyma guilliermondii and Penicillium chrysogenum, two dampness-loving fungi associated with wood rot.

What does that teach you about cities? Maybe not much. Cataloging bug DNA might not say much about the urban microbiome as a whole…just being able to see this invisible microbial world is at least a step toward understanding it…A city is about more than architecture and infrastructure and people; it’s about the bugs everyone shares, too.

Some of those little critters are harmful to us. Some aren’t. Many of them probably affect our lives in a number of ways which can’t be categorized in simple fashion. But, increasing knowledge also increases the likelihood of expanding understanding.

The most depressing barge in the world

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New York City Prison Barge, The Vernon C. Bain Center, is an 800-bed jail barge that is designed to handle inmates from medium- to maximum-security in 16 dormitories and 100 cells. It resides on the East River approximately one mile west of SUNY Maritime College.

The barge falls under the New York City Department of Corrections and is part of the vast Rikers Island jail complex, the world’s largest penal colony. The prison barge was built in New Orleans for $161 million and brought to New York in 1992 to reduce overcrowding on the island’s land-bound buildings. Since the jail is not permanently moored to the shore, Coast Guard regulations require that she have 3 maritime crew on board at all time, including a mate, an engineer and an oiler.

Class-ridden NYC at its typical best. Let’s find an efficient and cheap way to warehouse folks we deem to be criminals. Rikers’ reputation for murder, rape, beatings, maltreatment and subhuman conditions is world-class.

One old gangbanger mate of mine was a screw at Riker’s for decades. He finally transferred to the Transit Coppers to regain his sanity.

Empire State Building gets in the way of drone

drone dork

A New Jersey man was flying his drone over Manhattan Thursday night when a historic landmark, the Empire State Building, very rudely got in its flight path. The drone crashed into the skyscraper’s 40th floor and ended up tumbling down a few stories to rest on the ledge of the 36th floor…

The drone pilot, 27-year-old Sean Riddle, enlisted the help of the security guards at the Empire State Building to try to get his robot back. Security said sure and then went right behind Riddle’s back and called the cops. Riddle was arrested and charged with reckless endangerment and violating the city’s rules on flying these unmanned aerial vehicles.

Cops say they’re not sure if the drone is still stuck up there or not, so maybe keep an eye out when you’re on 34th Street.


New York mayor calls on pension funds to divest from coal

Koch Bros carbon wall of shame

New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio called on the city’s five pension funds…to end their investments in coal companies, demonstrating his commitment to taking on climate change.

The pension funds – whose assets total a collective $160bn – have $33m invested in coal, according to the mayor’s office.

“New York City is a global leader when it comes to taking on climate change and reducing our environmental footprint. It’s time that our investments catch up – and divestment from coal is where we must start,” De Blasio said…

This announcement follows a continued global movement to divest from coal. In June, Norway’s parliament endorsed the selling of coal investments from its $900bn sovereign wealth fund, and on 2 September, California lawmakers passed a bill requiring the state’s two largest pension plans to divest any holdings of thermal coal within 18 months…

The mayor also proposed that the pension funds establish long-term investment strategies for all fossil fuel investments “as New York City continues to move toward renewables and away from fossil fuels”.

Now, if we would only kick the foot-draggers [knuckle-draggers?] out of Congress we might see progressive movement in the whole United States on pollution and climate change.

9/11 rescue dog celebrates her 16th birthday in NYC

Click to enlargeBretagne is the last living rescue dog who worked at the World Trade Center

A rescue dog that flew to New York for the 9/11 recovery effort returned last month to celebrate her 16th birthday.

The golden retriever named Bretagne traveled from Cypress, Texas, with her owner, Denise Corliss, after the 2001 terror attacks. They worked with dozens of other dogs and humans to find victims in the rubble of the World Trade Center.

Her Aug. 22 return for a birthday bash was sponsored by BarkPost, a New York-based website devoted to all things canine.

The daylong celebration included a dog friendly cake, a ride in a vintage taxi and a trip to a dog run.

BarkPost creative producer Lara Hartle says Bretagne’s favorite part was the cake…

Good dog.