A controversial Park Slope chicken coop is tearing Park Slope apart in that very special way that only Park Slope can tear itself apart. What would ordinarily be a trivial, unmentionable disagreement in some other neighborhood becomes, in the eyes of the media, a dramatically amplified brouhaha of apocalyptic proportions. In this case, the fuse sparking the always combustible Park Slope Powderkeg is a community garden's decision to keep a handful of chickens on its property. And The New York Times is on it:
The month-old dispute that has turned neighbor against neighbor in Brooklyn has spawned petitions, door-to-door campaigns and reams of fliers. There have been shouting matches, and even an intervention from a city councilman. And it all started with eight clucking hens...
Although the garden members say they handed out fliers announcing their plans to residents on nearby blocks, many have complained that the garden made its decision without consulting anyone. Since then, a somewhat atypical not-in-my-backyard battle has emerged over the chickens. The opponents — many of them residents long entrenched in the neighborhood — have pilloried the garden as an “exclusive club” that has trampled on the community’s concerns.
Over 160 area residents have signed a petition against the chickens, fearing that the hens will keep them awake at night with their clucking, and also attract rats. Yesterday chicken opponents faced off with advocates at the garden for what the Times describes as "a rancorous and sometimes profane meeting." Although a city rat expert inspected the coop and declared it to be vermin-proof, the opposition remained unswayed. "There is a pattern here of being untruthful, not really reaching out to the neighbors, not being community-spirited; there is a history of being exclusive," the most outspoken chicken critic, Ahhalia Smith, declared.
The controversy seems to have caught the Warren-St. Marks Community Garden off guard. Last year half a dozen hens spent their winter in a private yard on the same block, with nary a peep from the neighbors. (In the spring, they return to their home on Governors Island.) For now the chickens' fate remains uncertain—the garden is privately owned for public use, so ultimately they're allowed to be there (roosters are verboten, but not hens, and it's not like they're protesting or anything). But the garden volunteers seem willing to consider a compromise, and they're going to hold a vote and offer membership to any and all opponents.
"This whole debate is for people who have too much time on their hands," one oddly sensible local resident tells the Daily News. "This is a Park Slope problem. People died today, and we are worried about chickens.” To be fair, this sort of heated internecine chicken warfare isn't just a Park Slope problem. It's a BROOKLYN problem.