By Alex Davidson
Mike Georgatos walked into his house Tuesday with an armful of newspapers a day after he discovered an American alligator shuffling through the trees across from his house in Alley Pond Park.
More than two rolls of film later and after a media blitz that included television, radio and newspaper stories, Georgatos, who is of Greek ancestry, said he was still interested in talking to reporters.
“I’m still waiting for the Greek newspaper,” said Georgatos, 53, who lives at the corner of 73rd Avenue and 224th Street. “They’re the only ones who haven’t come yet.”
The Oakland Gardens resident said he was taking his dog, Rambo, for a walk in Alley Pond Park at the usual hour he returns from work at 3:30 p.m., when he noticed the 4-foot alligator shuffling in the woods.
Georgatos said he saw the alligator as did a UPS driver who regularly eats lunch at the park. He said his dog immediately ran after the creature as it scurried into the brush. After tying up Rambo in his driveway, Georgatos said he went back to the woods and searched for the alligator — he ended up three blocks east and found the animal in a still position, playing dead to avoid capture.
“I always take my dog to the park,” he said. “People started stopping by in cars when they saw something going on.”
Georgatos said he called 911 and the Police Department three times. He said they finally came, along with Queens Park Rangers, to tie up, capture and then remove the alligator from Alley Pond Park.
Queens Parks Commissioner Richard Murphy said authorities found the wayward animal on the perimeter of the park, which is a likely indicator its owner had only recently abandoned the alligator.
“They did the wrong thing, absolutely the wrong thing here,” Murphy said about the American alligator that can grow up to be 15 feet long. “It could have survived a New York spring and summer but not the winter.”
Murphy said two Queens Urban Park Rangers were involved in catching the alligator, a process that included their first putting the animal in a noose, taping its mouth shut to prevent it from biting and finally taking it away from the park. He said authorities then put the alligator in the Bronx Zoo Reptile House, where it will likely stay after an initial quarantine period to ensure it is free from diseases.
The commissioner also said police officers from the 111th Precinct and emergency services units responded to the three 911 calls. He said he was involved in a similar incident, the last of its kind in the city, in 1993, when an alligator of the same size was caught in Kissena Park.
Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.