After harrowing cat rescue, merchant now needs help


By Albert Amateau

Peter Myers, proprietor of the English deli in the West Villager where Molly the cat was rescued on April 14 after being trapped in an exterior wall for two weeks, was putting his shop back together last week.

Myers’ of Keswick at 634 Hudson St., looked neat and clean to customers early this week despite the sheetrock that covered a 3-foot-wide opening in the wall behind the counter. And Myers’ pork pies, Cornish pasties and sausage rolls were savory as ever.

But out front, there were missing bricks and gaping openings in the base of the facade and north wall between the store and Hudson Bar and Books to remind passersby of the rescue effort that had attracted crowds of Villagers, animal lovers and news media. Myers’ basement had piles of debris and numerous holes left from the rescue effort.

“We’ve started cleaning up but we haven’t got any estimate yet about the cost,” Myers said on April 25. Insurance will cover exterior repairs but not the interior, he added. And the exterior work will require Landmarks Preservation Commission approval because Myers’ is in the Greenwich Village Historic District.

Animal Care and Control of New York, which coordinated “Operation Molly,” has an appeal going on its Web site for donations to help pay for Myers’ repairs.

“It hasn’t been as much as we hoped,” Myers said. However, a few people have dropped off donations toward repairs at the store.

At the peak of Molly hysteria, according to Jean Tannenbaum, a spokesperson for A.C.C., an anonymous donor offered to pay the entire cost of repairs if he were allowed to provide Molly with a foster home.

“He didn’t think the cat was receiving the proper care at the shop and he said he had someone who would take her. But when he learned that Irene [Peter’s wife] took Molly home, he didn’t follow up and we haven’t heard from him since,” Tannenbaum said.

The Myers have another cat at home and Molly will remain a house cat instead of a shop cat, Tannenbaum said. Moreover, the New York City Health Code prohibits animals in places where food is sold.

“I wish I had a dollar for every cat living in a bodega,” said one Villager commenting on the Health Code rule.

Animal Care and Control is also seeking donations for high-tech equipment to help future rescues — including a “snake camera” with a lens at the end of a thin flexible tube and sound-detecting equipment, said Mike Pastore, operations director of A.C.C.

Pastore, who joined the rescue effort on April 6, paid tribute to several volunteers who had enlisted in the Save Molly brigade. Kevin Clifford, a sandhog working on a water tunnel shaft project a block north of the shop, would drop by after work. Clifford made the successful rescue after Molly was finally located.

Josh Schermer, who runs a pet care business in Hudson Square, and Allan Fierstein, an acoustics expert, were also among the rescuers, which additionally included firefighters and police who responded to the call for help, not to mention the animal psychologist and a psychic who came to the scene.

“I was there on April 6 and April 7 and I didn’t hear anything,” Pastore recalled. After a while he discovered that Molly would begin crying at about 6 p.m. or 6:30 p.m. every evening. At first rescuers dug holes at the base of the facade and in the basement ceiling to discover where Molly was hidden.

“Landmarks gave us permission to work as long as we didn’t bring the building down,” Pastore said.

Molly was sighted briefly in the monitor of a snake camera provided by police, but she soon moved out of sight. A.C.C. brought five kittens to the store in the hope that they would lure Molly out.

“They did a good job of screaming their heads off, but it didn’t work,” Pastore said.

Toward the end of the week, Fierstein brought a sound-sensing meter to the store to pinpoint Molly’s location.

“He said we’d have to have absolute quiet and then got under a sound blanket,” Pastore recalled.

Fierstein estimated that Molly was holed up about 20 feet from the front between the two buildings.

“Kevin measured the distance inside the store and Peter told us we had one shot at it. We took turns making a hole through a layer of sheetrock and three layers of brick,” Pastore said.

Clifford stuck his head through the hole and spotted the black cat sitting on a mound of debris. He managed to grab Molly by her back legs and pulled her inside the store.

“Her claws were flying every which way and he tried to hand her off to Peter. We finally got her into a carrier,” Pastore said.

“I hope people realize that Molly was not the only cat that needs to be rescued,” he added. “She has a home now but we have lots of homeless cats that need to be adopted.”

How did Molly manage to survive for two weeks — where did she get food and water?

“It’s anybody’s guess,” Pastore said. “I still don’t know how she got back there.”