Gov. Cuomo shoots down bird bill aimed to study fatal building strikes

Anywhere from 90,000 to 230,000 birds die each year in New York City from window collisions. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

The legislation would have created a council to study buildings’ risk to birds.

Despite the “massacre” of birds that conservationists say is thanks to glassy towers in New York City, Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday rejected a bill that would have created a council to study buildings’ risk to birds.

Bill 25-B would have created a 15-member council within the Department of Environmental Conservation, but in his veto memo posted by The City, Cuomo said that the costs associated with doing that would not be worth it since their work would just confirm what experts in the field have already established.

“The desire to prevent bird mortality from buildings is a laudable pursuit,” he wrote. “However, having a new council within DEC re-study the impact of buildings on bird mortality will not advance the state of science in this field. This bill does not address the resources that would be necessary to complete a study of this scope.”

Because the study wasn’t limited to a single area and because of the lack of expertise and budget in the DEC, Cuomo rejected the bill. He said that since costs were not addressed in the Legislature, the DEC would be expected to take on the costs of the council and the study — “given the potential costs involved, this bill would be more appropriately address during negotiation of the state budget.”

“This bill is also problematic because it purports to give a council of appointed members the authority to promulgate rules and regulations,” he added.

Conservationists are still hopeful the governor will pass another bill — Intro 1482, that would require that glass installed on newly constructed or altered buildings be treated to reduce bird strike fatalities. It is currently laid over in the Committee on House and Buildings.

Anywhere from 90,000 to 230,000 birds estimated to die each year from striking New York City’s skyscrapers, according to the New York City Audubon. Birds often misinterpret glassy reflections of trees as their actual habitats, so they pick up speed and fly to what they think is safety but  crash into buildings, breaking their beaks, wings and backs, cracking their skulls, damaging their eyes and suffering concussions, conservationists say.

The Wild Bird Fund regularly posts photos of birds on Twitter that have been rehabilitated, including those hurt by smacking into windows.

“It’s a crisis for birds,” said Kaitlyn Parkins of NYC Audubon. “Birds are really important in our ecosystem — they eat insects and pests, pollinate and distribute seeds — and they’re keeping the earth functioning to the benefit of everything, including us.”

Shaye Weaver