BloggersAisha Al-Muslim Jennifer Barrios Bill Bleyer Denise M. Bonilla Sophia Chang Tara Conry Carl Corry Erin Geismar Scott Eidler Mitch Freedman Mackenzie Issler Carl MacGowan Deborah S. Morris Ted Phillips Candice Ruud David Schwartz Nicholas Spangler Joshua Stewart Brittany Wait Patrick Whittle
Hempstead reprimands employees for halting feral cat photos
Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray acknowledged during Tuesday's town board meeting that the town has reprimanded three employees for refusing to allow an animal activist to take photos of a feral cat colony at Newbridge Road Park in Bellmore.
Attorney Cathy Gottschalk, a regular speaker at town board meetings and a frequent critic of the town’s animal shelter, told the board that two town park employees and one public safety officer told her on the afternoon of April 27 that she could not take pictures at the park. After she took some photos of the cats, she alleged the public safety officer used his patrol vehicle to block her car when she attempted to leave the park.
“There was no way I could leave,” Gottschalk, 50, of Massapequa Park, said after the meeting. “I was pretty upset. This was very scary for me. It was very intimidating and very uncomfortable.”
An observer called 911 and Nassau County Police Department officers responded to try to defuse the situation, Gottschalk said. A Nassau police spokesman confirmed that department officers did respond to such a call.
“This whole picture-taking thing was just a ruse to harass me,” Gottschalk said. “Why would you let me take pictures for 45 minutes? And when I am ready to leave block me? It doesn’t make sense.”
Murray acknowledged at the meeting the employees were “spoken to” for prohibiting Gottschalk from taking photos at the park. However, she denied knowledge of Gottschalk’s car getting blocked in.
“You absolutely have the right to take pictures in town parks,” Murray said, adding that stopping Gottschalk from doing so “was clearly wrong on the employees’ part.”
Town spokesman Michael Deery said the employees “erroneously informed” Gottschalk that there was no-photography policy at town parks. Town policy prohibits taking pictures of people, particularly minors, without consent, he said in a statement.
“Involved employees have been counseled on the incident and staff has received clarification on the town’s photography policy at town parks,” he said.
The cat colony has been the subject of protests over town plans to relocate the cats’ feeding station to another part of the park.
Above: A cat looks through the fence near a feeding station in Bellmore. (April 18, 2012)