It'll be middle-class parents against the homeless, indigents & winos. All over a rodent. The winner? Guess.
The outcry on EVGrieve's comment box against Occupy Tompkins Square Park is only the latest sign of a gathering battle over turf that will likely gentrify the park beyond recognition. It is coming in increments, and the first struggle will likely play out over the rats.
The parents who use the Avenue A playground have organized to rid the park of rats. Sounds harmless -- no one likes rats, and there sure are a lot of them throughout the park and particularly near that playground.
But there's a problem with rat control. Rats reproduce really fast, so killing rats doesn't make a dent, unless every last rat is dead and no outside rats move in. There are only two ways to control rats effectively. One way is removing their food source. If you do that, you'll see at first the overpopulated community eating everything in sight, then eating their own new litters of young, and finally, a reduced population.
But how to limit their food source? Well, one way is to remove the soup kitchens around the park. The kitchens create a steady flow of discarded food on the lawns and over the garbage lids. But remove the soup kitchens, you remove their clients, an entire demographic in the south west corner of the park. The resolution of the rat problem will lead to a cultural and ethnic cleansing of the park, leaving it to the yuppies and the middle-class families in the park.
For now, the city administration wants to keep the local indigent population on site in the park. They are easy to observe and control in the park. Equally important, there are many social services that can minister to them conveniently in one place. So for now the city supports the soup kitchens in and around the park. But parents are adamant, narrow in their interest, focused, active and communal -- they network effectively and regularly and give each other mutual encouragement. If they don't see results to their satisfaction, they will press their interests until they win, regardless who is hurt. Parents don't mess around, especially parents with a sense of entitlement.
The local indigents are not organized, they have no clout, and they have no support beyond themselves and the missions, which have their own institutional commitments in their relations to city administration. In other words, the locals at the southwest corner are at risk. And you know where it will end.
The other way to control rats is introducing feral cats to drive the
rats off their turf. This was effective for many years prior to
gentrification on my street, when we accepted cat waste on the steps
as the price to pay for a rat-free building and street. But park users will object to the cat waste on the lawns, and neighbors around the
park would lose sleep to their high-pitched cat-screeching. Feral cats
are an effective solution, but it'll never happen in the park.
I didn't like having rats in my apartment, when about ten years ago gentrification spurred my landlord to turn the basement into apartments and drove the rats there up into the rest of the building. But I don't have any trouble with the rats in the park. I see them every night by the parkour course and handball courts. I don't bother them, and they don't bother me.
For my part, I'd rather have either rats or cats in the park than the parents: the parents are dangerous to humans.