Philadelphia SANDWICH POLICE: stop rats - ban feeding the

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Thu, 11 Jun 1998 03:02:13 -0700 (PDT)


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"People who are eating lunch there and cleaning up after themselves are not
being approached or talked to, but we are going to continue to enforce the
ban on distribution of food by vendors and people who are distributing food
to homeless." -- Jeff Moran, spokesman for the city Health Department
[cited in column below]


  http://www.phillynews.com/daily_news/98/Jun/10/local/JILL10.htm
  FWD  June 10, 1998 - Philadelphia Daily News - by Jill Porter

  SANDWICH POLICE LOOK OTHER WAY IN JFK PARK


The last time I ate here, I was committing an act of civil disobedience.

I schlepped my creamed spinach and skim milk to JFK Plaza a year ago to
protest the food ban issued because the place was overrun with rats thanks
largely to the homeless encampment and advocates who distributed food there
every night. And the last time I ate here, the day after the ban was
announced, I was by myself.

Yesterday, I brought a bagel and had lots of company.

The noontime crowd was smaller than it used to be, certainly -- but people
were blatantly eating their lunch: pizza, sausage, corned beef on rye with
cole slaw.

An insurrection? A defiant population retaking its rightful territory?

Well, not exactly. It turns out the ban has been "relaxed."

And the sandwich police will no longer make you fold up your aluminum foil
and move along.

"We have relaxed enforcement of the ban," said Jeff Moran, spokesman for
the city Health Department.

"People who are eating lunch there and cleaning up after themselves are not
being approached or talked to, but we are going to continue to enforce the
ban on distribution of food by vendors and people who are distributing food
to homeless."

Apparently, the mission has been accomplished.

The rat population is under control, homeless advocates no longer use the
plaza as a soup kitchen, and the park can now -- unofficially -- be
returned to the folks who traditionally flock there for a summer lunch
under the fountain spray.

"We've tried to not be quite so aggressive on the lunch side, because we're
trying to strike a balance here, to find a way to accommodate people at the
same time trying to work on the problem of controlling the rat population,"
said Deputy Mayor Kevin Feeley.

Last summer, Feeley said, police officers were in the park compelling
observance of the ban, but recently, "We haven't done a whole lot in terms
of lunchtime enforcement.

"We've attempted to try and be a little more humane with respect to the
lunchtime feeders, and we do on a fairly regular basis remind people
there's a problem and try and encourage them not to eat there."

The ban was targeted primarily, although unofficially, at the homeless
who'd set up permanent residence in the park and the advocates who fed them
there every night.

The leftovers led to plump and populous rats and the declaration of the
park as a health hazard.

But the advocates, who originally howled about the ban and said they'd feed
the homeless there anyway, complied instead.

"The feeders have been very cooperative in terms of recognizing the public
health issue that was involved there and so, I think in general we really
haven't had an issue with people distributing food," said the city's
homeless czar, Michael Nardone.

Still, to ensure the problem remains under control, the city will continue
to enforce the ban against wholesale feedings there, whether it's hot dogs
from a vendor or soup from a volunteer.

But lunchtime diners seeking refuge from stale office air and overcrowded
cafeterias can now once again eat in the open air at 15th Street and JFK
Boulevard -- without guilt.

That will be a relief to Tracey Hopkins, 35, of Chestnut Hill, who was
perched on a wall eating a corned beef sandwich yesterday and was still
under the impression she was breaking the law.

"I'm careful!" said Hopkins, 35, a paralegal who started coming to the park
again in the last couple of months after adhering to the ban last year.

"I take all my trash with me! I do! I do!" she said defensively and with a
laugh.

Not to worry, Tracey.

Love Park welcomes you back.

Just don't feed the rats.

END FORWARD

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