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'The Pigeons Are Back': Uptown Residents Sound Off on the Pesky Birds

By  Jackie Kostek and Linze Rice | December 16, 2014 7:33am 

 Pigeons in Uptown.
Pigeons in Uptown.
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DNAinfo/Adeshina Emmanuel

UPTOWN — If Alfred Hitchcock were scouting locations for a sequel to the 1963 classic "The Birds," Uptown would be the ideal setting.

That’s because the birds — more precisely, the pigeons — are back.

“The pigeons are back,” said Jeffrey Littleton, an Uptown resident, “and they’re back in big numbers.”

Of course, the pigeons never really went away. But the scandal involving Ald. James Cappleman (46th) and a neighborhood woman known as “the pigeon lady” came to a head two years ago — when the woman allegedly shoved the alderman after he tried to brush bird feed off the sidewalk near his office — and has since died down.

“I’ve noticed it all summer long,” Littleton said of the increasing numbers of pigeons in the neighborhood.

Littleton said he often saw flocks of pigeons in a parking lot near the mural on Lawrence Avenue. And while Littleton said “the pigeon lady," a well-known Uptown resident, has still been seen feeding pigeons in the neighborhood recently, he said she’s only a small part of the problem.

“She was a big feeder,” said Littleton, “but pound for pound she was probably only 10 or 20 percent of the problem. I’m all over the place and I see who’s feeding them.”

Emily Wood, president of the Argyle Winmore Block Club, said the pigeon lady left a variety of food items for the birds, including leftover cooked dinner, rolls and noodles.

“Anything that’s wet and cooked, it’s just revolting,” she said.

Twice, Wood said, she witnessed the pigeon lady in the act, confronting her once, telling her feeding the pigeons was “unsanitary and unsafe” for nearby children and dogs. “I won’t walk my dog on that block at all.”

Confronting her is exactly what Wood says she believes is the key to finding a resolution. She said unless police stake out areas near the pigeon lady’s Uptown residence, she fears little to nothing can be done about the situation.

“I think their hands are tied if she’s not caught in the act,” said Wood. “She’s going to do it every day.”

Wood said she’s spoken with Cappleman’s office about the issue, but because of the ward zone boundaries, she and her neighbors are stuck in a bureaucratic gray area. For that reason, she said calls to Cappleman’s office have been “relatively unsuccessful.” In the past, she said, she’s considered calling 48th ward Ald. Harry Osterman for assistance.

“But it’s not in his ward, I mean she is in his ward for sure, but that whole street is kind of a no man’s land where it’s hard to get any traction either way,” Wood said.

Tressa Feher, Cappleman’s chief of staff, said the office had received some complaints recently about pigeons, but “not a lot.”

Though the pigeon issue made citywide headlines in 2012 and 2013, Littleton said he thought the neighborhood needed to come up with control strategies similar to those used on rodents like rats.

“This is one of the most confounding problems in urban life,” Littleton said, “but you just have to deal with it.”

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