By Steve Mosco
Most people seek out trees during the warm months as a respite from the sun’s rays, but not the Harris family in Middle Village.
The tree in front of their home on 67th Road is constantly full of flocks of birds indiscriminately firing droppings below onto the Harris’ house and railings, garbage cans, sidewalk and car.
Stephen Harris has lived in the Middle Village home with his wife Kathleen and three daughters Megan, Erin and Jenna since the mid-1990s. Each year their house is the only one on the block with a front porch and sidewalk covered in bird feces.
“They keep coming back here,” he said. “And there is nothing I can do.”
Harris said he has reached out to the city to find out how to alleviate the problem, but he said the city only answers by telling him fines will be levied if he trims the tree or has the birds removed. He will also face fines if he does not constantly clean the birds’ business from the sidewalk.
“They only tell me what I can’t do and what I will be fined for,” he said. “The city cares more about the birds than they do about the humans.”
Harris has reached out to City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), who has in turn contacted the city Department of Health to find out whether the birds are an invasive species.
A spokesman for the councilwoman said she is working to find an appropriate solution for the Harris family.
According to DOH’s website, bird droppings harbor parasites, bacteria, molds and viruses that can be harmful to humans. The department did not return calls for comment.
But Harris and his family are not merely complaining for the sake of it. Harris faces myriad physical ailments including pneumonia and Kennedy’s disease, a neuro-muscular condition affecting the spine and impeding movement. Harris needs to use his railing covered with bird droppings to get in and out of his home.
“I can clean the railings and the sidewalk every day — it doesn’t matter,” he said. “Literally 24 hours after I clean, it is completely covered again.”
Harris is not the only one dealing with physical pain: His wife has fibromyalgia and his daughter Megan has endured three knee surgeries.
“It’s hard because we can’t help him and he can barely clean it himself,” said Megan, who is also asthmatic and believes the bird feces exacerbates her condition. “We can’t sit out here, and even the kids walking to school know to avoid this house.”
Harris said all the expenses related to the bird droppings come out of his pocket. Every year he buys new garbage cans and every couple of weeks he has to get his car washed. He has even paid others from the neighborhood to help him clean the sidewalk.
The expenses pile up like bird feces and it is becoming a strain on his family, Harris said, adding that he had to retire many years ago due to his health.
“I do not have a lot of money coming in and I cannot keep paying for all of this out of pocket,” he said. “I’m at my wit’s end.”
Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4546.