Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Roosevelt Island Wildlife Freedom Foundation Says Cat Sanctuary To Be Evicted From Southpoint Park With No Immediate Place To Go - RIOC Says Cat Sanctuary Will Have New And Better Facility, Needs To Move So Southpoint Shoreline Construction Project Can Begin

The Wildlife Freedom Foundation (WFF):

... is a non-profit 501c3 organization formed for the purpose of protecting and conserving wildlife and rescuing and caring for abandoned and stray animals in NYC.

Among other causes, we work: to control and reduce the population of stray cats in NYC through the “Trap-Neuter-Release” and get them adopted when possible; to provide permanent care for abandoned and/or not adoptable cats; to advocate to prevent and end ALL forms of cruelty towards animals.
For the past 10 years, the WFF

has maintained a Cat Sanctuary

in Roosevelt Island's Southpoint Park.

On June 11, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) announced plans to work with WFF to move the Southpoint Park Cat Sanctuary to a new, mutually agreeable location in Southpoint Park because of the start of the Southpoint Shoreline Construction project..

But, Roosevelt Island resident and WFF Founder Rossana Ceruzzi reports today:
Cats To Be Evicted From Southpoint Sanctuary With No Immediate Place to Go

It started amicably.

After years of planning, on June 4th, RIOC’s Board approved a project to “refurbish” Southpoint Park shorelines. To make way for the construction, Wildlife Freedom Foundation’s (WFF) cat sanctuary would need to be relocated.

Per its own Advisory sent out on 6/11/20, “One of RIOC’s priorities is the safe relocation of one of the Wildlife Freedom Foundation’s cat sanctuaries from the construction area to another permanent home in Southpoint Park.”

WFF agreed to cooperate with RIOC in moving the cats. Accordingly, Jonna Carmona Graf, the recent RIOC Assistant VP of Capital Planning and Projects, and Rossana Ceruzzi (myself), President of the WFF, had been in friendly talks about what was needed for the cats’ new home that RIOC had committed to build. We agreed on the site (at the southern end of the park North of Smallpox and between the East and West entrance to Four Freedoms Park,)

and were working out such details as dimensions, water, electricity, location of the entrance and, very important, the fence.

No construction or work on the site has commenced.

Then, on Friday, June 5, Carmona Graf we learned, was no longer with RIOC and things took a precipitous turn for the worse.

After months of discussions, RIOC, without warning, suddenly demanded that WFF relocate the cats in the unreasonable timeframe of the next 2 weeks. What is more, RIOC is forcing this relocation despite the fact that the new site will not be completed before then – something RIOC’s own architect admits.

As per the last email received from Jonna Carmona Graf on 4/29, there was no timeline or date at which the cats would need to be moved. COVID-19 was ever-present and we know most construction was on hold. Then, suddenly, on Monday, June 8, WFF was informed for the first time that work was to begin the first week in July, requiring relocation of the cats by June 30.

In another email, RIOC threatened WFF that if it did not comply with its demands that it would hire an animal rescue group to carry out their objective.

And then came the real kicker: in a subsequent communication, RIOC declared the shoreline work was going to start at the very spot where the present sanctuary stands!

“Cats are not objects.” “You can’t just shove them into a carrier and move them.” Those animals have established a territory that they consider home. The cats have been living at that site for ten years, so their territorial instinct will be particularly strong. Even if they are moved to a new structure, it will be alien to them and they will continue to return to their former home. Weaning them from the old site, by not leaving any food there, will take many months. The WFF has emphasized that part all along.

Beyond this consideration, which should be obvious, RIOC’s actions raise several pointed questions:
  • Where should the cats be relocated to? Their new sanctuary has not yet been built.
  • If “RIOC’s priority is the safe relocation of WFF’s cat sanctuary from the construction area,” as they have noted publicly, then new site should be completed first and then the cats should be moved on a reasonable timeline.
  • Isn’t it somewhat perverse to begin work in the exact spot the cats now inhabit?
  • Why not start on the West side of the park to provide more time for the cats’ transition?
  • What’s the rush? If the new sanctuary was built immediately, the 2020 construction season (July 1–November 30) could be used to effect the cats’ relocation. Then the refurbishment of the East shoreline could take place next year.
There is not much time left. Our beloved voiceless cats need help!

I am hoping to attract national media coverage and community support so that there is sufficient time to move the cats and to set up a suitable home.
In response to my inquiry on the matter, RIOC Public Information Officer Terrence McCauley repled
RIOC understands and appreciates the Wildlife Freedom Foundation’s invaluable service to the homeless cat population on Roosevelt Island. That is why we have been proud to fund the WFF’s great work through our Public Purpose Fund grant program. Last year, we worked with the foundation to rebuild the cat sanctuary and shelter near the Octagon. We have also given the foundation storage space in various locations throughout the Island.

RIOC needs to move the Southpoint Park sanctuary to a more permanent home within the park so we can begin to repair the damaged seawalls in that part of the island. For more than a year, our staff has worked with the foundation on these relocation efforts. We have conducted several walk-throughs with the foundation to select a suitable location since mid-2019. In fact, RIOC has delayed the move several times in order to comply with the WFF’s changes to our designs. The WFF’s new Southpoint Park sanctuary will be a permanent facility within the park that has electricity, running water and an even bigger cat shelter than it has now.

RIOC has consulted with an animal rescue organization in an effort to seek guidance on how best to humanely and safely move the cat sanctuary to its new location in Southpoint Park. This consultation became necessary when the WFF had informed us that they required six to eight months for the relocation effort. We are attempting to work amicably with the foundation’s attorney to reach a formal agreement regarding the new cat sanctuary in Southpoint Park.

RIOC looks forward to continuing to work with the WFF in its noble mission to protect Roosevelt Island’s wildlife.