Hevesi, Crowley bills a boon to MidVil raccoon removal

Hevesi, Crowley bills a boon to MidVil raccoon removal
By Joe Anuta

Middle Village residents will have an easier time removing wily raccoons from their property after a new bill was passed in Albany July 15, a Queens lawmaker said.

“Raccoons have become a serious nuisance and affect the quality of life of many people in this community,” state Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) said.

The bill corrects a misinterpretation of the original law that only required the state Department of Environmental Conservation to remove raccoons if the vermin appeared to be rabid. The law said the DEC was required to remove “venomous snakes and raccoons” in addition to a long list of other creatures.

According to Hevesi, “venomous” was interpreted to mean rabid. The bill was changed to read “raccoons and venomous snakes.”

“Clearly, no constituent … could prove a raccoon that is creating quality-of-life issues in the neighborhood is rabid,” Hevesi said at a news conference in Middle Village.

Instead, residents were required to contact a private exterminator who would set traps. One Middle Village resident had to pay nearly $300 for a trap to be installed for seven days outside her house. It captured one raccoon.

Another resident said the DEC told him, “You catch it, then we’ll come get it.”

Another bill was introduced by City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), which makes the same clarification on a city level.

The city Department of Health was formerly responsible for removing rabid raccoons, but will now remove any of the critters.

“We have had a growth of the number of constituents” who would see raccoons even in daylight hours, she said, adding that raccoons that emerge during the day might be sick.

Hevesi and Crowley announced the legislation along with co-sponsor Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) outside the home of Richard Hubert, whose home on 75th Street has been a frequent destination of the animals.

The raccoons have often come into his yard from the nearby cemetery looking for water in his backyard pool, he said. Hubert came out one morning to find the cover of his pool meticulously rolled back where the raccoons had been drinking.

“They uncovered it neater than you or I would,” Hubert said.

Hubert’s 6-year-old son was fed up with the raccoons as well, claiming that they took bites out of his flotation devices he plays with in the pool.

“They ate one of our noodles!” said Ricky Hubert, referring to a long, foam cylinder.

The raccoons search for food in back of many of the houses on 75th Street and destroy the seasonal vegetable crops planted by Hubert’s neighbor.

“They didn’t go for the hot peppers yet,” said Hubert’s wife Teresa.

Neighbor Gary Conte has lived in the neighborhood since the late 1980s and said that he sees raccoons walking down the street in broad daylight.

“They’re not scared of you,” he said. “The city should have done something about it.”

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.