Friday, December 14, 2012

A Flock Of Pigeons, and Their Feeders

It was all over the news yesterday:  Ald. Cappleman introduced an ordinance to make pigeon feeding on the public way illegal, punishable by heavy fines and up to six months in jail.  Some people have been wondering why this is a big deal.  Well, this is our opinion:

This isn't Grandmaw sitting in the park throwing leftover crusts to the birds.  This is big pigeon business.  We hear every week from people who have seen Young Kang and Ed Gross, her driver, making the rounds of their feeding spots, where hundreds of pigeons await them and follow them.  We've heard from four different people who have been assaulted by Ms. Kang when they tried to prevent her from dumping pigeon food, everything from her grabbing a broom out of their hands and hitting them with it, to her taking a bucket from a small business owner and throwing it at him.

Each day, Ms. Kang (who has been a passive participant ever since she's been on probation) and Mr. Gross drive around Uptown, from 7am until dark.  They carry large bags of crumbs and rice in large tote bags with them and restock during the day.  If you ever wonder where they are, just look up at the sky for the swarm of pigeons that follow them on their rounds.

From a financial perspective:
  • When Ms. Kang moved from her residence on Magnolia to another home north of Lawrence, we started hearing from neighbors about the excessive amounts of bread and rice left on the the parkways near their homes.  Parked cars, building windows, and sidewalks are left covered with pigeon droppings.  Who pays?  Her neighbors, Streets & San, and the condo associations/block clubs who must clean it up.
  • Many readers complain that the vertical Aragon sign often has burned-out letters.  Wonder why?  One of the most popular pigeon feeding points for Ms. Kang and Mr. Gross is just west of the Aragon.  Pigeons poop inside the Aragon's marquee, leading to the letters short-circuiting.  (Pigeon excrement is one of the most corrosive substances you can find.)  Last time the Aragon had the sign cleaned out and rewired, it cost $5,000 to get all eight to ten feet of droppings cleared out.  Who pays?  The Aragon, which passes the expense on to the consumer.
  • The CTA sends crews out on a regular basis to powerwash the sidewalk under the Lawrence L and the Wilson L, sometimes on weekends.  That's because of all the pigeon droppings caused by pigeons, who enjoy being fed at both locations.  Who pays?  The CTA, which says it's broke and is cutting routes and raising fares.
  • Heavy-duty pigeon netting will be installed at the newly rehabbed Lawrence L station.  Who pays?  The CTA (see above). 
  • The ceiling of the former Majestic Store For Men, another popular feeding spot, has partially collapsed and the future of the building is in doubt.  It's a beautiful building, nearly a century old.  The ceiling collapse was partially due to corrosion caused by pigeon droppings.  Who pays?  The CTA (see above).
  • Both Ms. Kang and Mr. Gross have been arrested numerous times, and the car they use has been impounded.  In court, they use public defenders because they say they can't afford attorneys.  Who pays?  The taxpayer.
  • TIF funds were used to turn the 4500 block of Kenmore into a park for Stewart School.  Kids can't play in the north end of the park because of the pigeon droppings; the cul-de-sac on Kenmore is yet another favorite feeding spot.  Who pays?  The taxpayers who pay into the Wilson Yard TIF.
From a quality of life perspective:
  • Have you ever walked on Wilson Avenue when it's raining and encountered the wet "carpet of poo" under the L viaduct?  To say it's disgusting doesn't do it justice.  It's like a skating rink, and the idea of falling in it is beyond imagining.
  • It's been documented that kids in urban settings have a high incidence of asthma.  One of the most common reasons for asthma?  Pigeon droppings.
It's a hefty price we pay when Ms. Kang and Mr. Gross make their daily rounds.  They've each been arrested, to the point where the judges recognize them by sight, and they go right back to feeding the birds on the same day they are released from custody.  Obviously they are not thinking like reasonable people.

One thing is clear:  Whatever measures the community, police and courts are taking now aren't working.  Ald. Cappleman's proposed ordinance is all about changing the game, and that may, just may, have an effect on their behavior.  For that, we applaud him.


  1. Pigeons are a menace.

    To those of you who say the Capplemaniac should focus only on fighting crime I can only say dat itz possible to walk and chew gum at da same time.

    This issue has provided easy copy for some reporters, columnists and internet commenters more interested in an amusing anecdote and feigned outrage that actually dealing with a serious problem.

    I understand how it can seem kinda silly, but it's not. The City and CTA spends TENS of millions of dollars a year dealing with the effects of our winged friends. By effects I mean SHIT.

    Even left wing borderline socialist Oak Park talked about "euthanizing" pigeons recently.

    I've never understood why the city didn't have a pigeon control bureau like it does with rodent control. I guess rats don't have a lobby of thousands of rat lovers who feed them daily and others who love them for their rodential beauty.

    For years the Bureau of Rodent Control was run by an rat hating Irish immigrant named Terry Howard. Terry now patrols the gates of heaven with a club killing any stray rats that threaten to enter the pearly gates.

    Mayor 9.5 needs to find a man who hates pigeons as much as Terry Howard hated rats.
    Pigeons are not nearly as swift or bright as rats so if the political will can be found, unlikely, pigeons can become an uncommon sight throughout our fair crimefree city.


    "Go tell the bird lovers, stranger passing by, that here, obedient to our laws, lie thousands of dead pigeons.

    I apologize to Simonides of Ceos for SLIGHTLY changing his epitaph for the Spartans at Thermopylae.

  2. You say: "One thing is clear: Whatever measures the community, police and courts are taking now aren't working."

    But that is precisely the point - the system is not taking action.

    This is a matter of putting the cart before the horse.

    Existing penalties are not being enforced.

    James needs to focus on having existing ordinances enforced, before he tries to impose stiffer penalties.

    Higher penalties for unenforced ordinances? Yeah, that makes tons of sense.

    I don't like pigeon shit anymore than the next person, but the solution is not to make feeding pigeons something that you send people to jail over.

    Especially, when no one is enforcing the laws that are already on the books.

  3. ionchicago:

    Maybe I missed something in the article, but there were several places where the author mentioned Ms. Young being arrested for pigeon feeding and it has yet to deter her and her driver friend. It sounds to me like laws are being enforced, but aren't doing anything to prevent the pigeon feeding. Steep fines and possible jail time might deter this woman and anyone else who follows in her footsteps from doing the same. I'm open to other forms of penalty, be it community service or cleaning up all of the Bird poo she's created at every spot she's fed birds. I don't know what the answer is, but here is one proposal on the table.

  4. ionchicago

    Existing penalties ARE being enforced. The behavior continues. Nuff' said.

  5. It's overkill.

    It's not rational.

    You people are holding up one individual as a scapegoat.

    You don't send people to jail for littering and feeding pigeons.

    It's like Cappleman is living in an Arlo Guthrie song (Alice's Restaurant

  6. Great story Uptown Update, is it really one person running this site? Is this a full time job?

    I'm guessing Yes and NO.
    Making this story all the more impressive. Wow, great reporting.
    Best Blog of Chicago Bar None.

    Bad pigeon lady! Bad!

  7. It is time for the community to stand up to these pigeon people and stop the madness. I applaud that James is the first person to do that. He is helping to turn Uptown around after so much oppression from a former alderman.

  8. Feed her and her driver to the Uptown falcons that were released in the city to cut down on the pigeon infestation. And enforce high fines on any littering done on the streets of Chicago because I've seen many of Uptowns street dwellers defecating in the streets and alleys, plus many other young adults disposing their garbage on the sidewalks, being they are standing near a garbage can. One can only imagine what their apartments look like if they can't see how nasty our streets look by them just throwing everything onto the streets and sidewalks.
    Fine them! Fine them heavy!!!

  9. It's the "broken windows" crime fighting philosophy that NYC used to reduce crime. Crack down on the litter bugs & other crimes will go down. Besides they bother my poodle when I take him for a walk in the AM.

  10. I am really curious as to the mindset of this woman and her tireless mission to feed the pigeons, what motivates her exactly?

  11. A lot of people say that Singapore is the cleanest city/country in the world. Ever wonder why? You "hit" the litterers where it hurt the most -- their wallet. There's no trail or public defenders -- you are caught in the act, you pay a fine. 'nuff said.

  12. wow, i had no idea about this, although of course i have to dodge swarms of pigeons on Ainslie between Broadway and Winthrop every time i want to go to the post office, and whenever i catch the El at Lawrence. and both are annoying, poop-filled experiences that i'd rather not have.