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Proposed Hempstead law targets excessive bird feeding

Jeremy Sessler's neighbor, Michael Victor, pours bird feed

Jeremy Sessler's neighbor, Michael Victor, pours bird feed into a trough while feeding the geese, ducks, pigeons, swans and seagulls on his Seaford property. Sessler (not pictured) petitioned for a law regulating or banning the feeding of wild birds because he says the birds end up making a mess of his property. The photo was taken from the second floor of Sessler's house. (Dec. 14, 2013) Credit: Brad Penner

Hempstead officials are working on a town law that would restrict the feeding of wild birds in response to residents' complaints that overfeeding has caused unsanitary conditions in some neighborhoods.

The law is still in the planning stage and town officials said they haven't determined whether it would apply everywhere or only on town property -- or what the penalties would be. The town hopes to air the proposal publicly in January, said Gary Hudes, a town councilman who sponsored the measure.

Seaford resident Jeremy Sessler, one of the residents who has pushed for a law, said he would like to see legislation that bans feeding of birds such as geese, ducks, pigeons and seagulls. He said his Ocean Avenue home sometimes has 25 to 50 birds -- mostly Canada geese -- on the front lawn because of residents who overfeed and attract birds.

"I've got to clean up five times a week. The lawn, the driveway. It's too much -- it's just disgusting," Sessler said. "The last thing I want is my kid running around my front lawn."

Many local governments on Long Island -- including both counties and several towns and villages -- have laws that ban, or restrict, feeding wild birds. Most of the laws, such as the two county laws, prohibit feeding birds on public property.

Suffolk County's law is punishable by a fine of $50 to $400, Nassau's by $100 to $500.

Nassau's law states that bird feces produce bacteria that threaten public health and water quality. The law also says overfeeding disrupts migratory birds' normal migration patterns.

Hudes said he agrees with those concerns. He is working on the town proposal along with Supervisor Kate Murray, Councilwoman Angie M. Cullin and the town attorney's office.

Residents have complained about wild bird feeding for years and it's time for the town to craft a law, Hudes said. Complaints have also come from residents in Levittown, East Meadow, Bellmore and Merrick, he said.

"It's like a magnet, drawing these birds into an area which then adversely affects the birds, and then from bird droppings, which become a health issue," Hudes said.

Murray said the proposal will "restrict the feeding of nuisance birds to deal with overfeeding situations that can create an unpleasant and potentially unhealthy environment for local homeowners."

Sessler said nuisance bird feeding is a concern for people across the Island.

"People who live near parks have this issue, people who have pigeons close to their home deal with this issue, people who live near the water have this issue," he said. "I'm always trying to chase them away."

With Mackenzie Issler, Jennifer Barrios, Sarah Armaghan, Ted Phillips, Carl MacGowan, Mitchell Freedman and Denise M. Bonilla.

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