This is a multifaceted story. It is a complex story so I will try and summarise it.
A large, eight unit, building in New York City at 778 Onderdonk Avenue, Queens, was being developed by which I mean the building had been cleared of all tenants and the developer was refurbishing the place for commercial reasons.
As it happens there were 40 cats living in the empty building. Initially people were unaware of this. It is believed that they had belonged to a tenant who had been removed from the building. This is interesting in itself. The tenant appears to have simply abandoned the cats having been bought out of her flat by the developer. Not a good start to the story.
Once the developer had discovered that there were cats living in and around one of the apartments he employed a contractor to get rid of them. On my reading of the story, it is alleged that the contractor injured the cats in their attempt to get rid of them. They also sprayed the place with bleach to try and drive the cats out.
A witness to what had gone on, is Dolores Benefatti, a neighbour. She sneaked into the building to investigate. She heard and saw the cats rushing around the place. She found a piece of a cat’s tail on the staircase. She also saw what she thought was a cat’s jawbone. She said:
“A lot of these cats had injuries, gashes in their faces.”
They were also starving and undernourished. What she saw indicates that the developer, through his contractor, had allegedly abused the cats. What happened then was that animal rescue organisations and neighbours, all cat lovers, stepped in and began to rescue the cats themselves. The rescue effort was posted on Facebook on July 29 which drew the attention of a host of rescue groups.
Ultimately, Dolores Benefatti obtained the permission of the owner of the building to capture the remainder of the cats.
Also, a spokesperson for the Department of Buildings, stated that they were disturbed by reports that the construction work was taking place around abandon cats. The authorities had become involved as well. Inspectors were sent to the building to make sure that it was safe. The spokesperson rightly said that it is incumbent upon everyone to do all they can to protect vulnerable animal animals.
At this stage the owner had promised that no more work would be carried out until all the cats had been removed from the building. Since the authorities have became involved the building has been close to the original rescuers which I find a bit upsetting as it was they who stepped in in the first place and did such good work to protect the cats.
At one stage an animal welfare activist, Michael O’Neil, climbed through a window into the building to check on a cat that was apparently motionless in a trap. He was spotted by the police and half a dozen police officers surrounded him! He explained what had happened and was eventually released by the police.
Clearly tensions had mounted and a wide range of people had become involved: the police, the authorities, rescue groups, neighbours, contractors, the developer et cetera.
This is a tale of two sorts of people. There are people involved in commercial enterprises. The objective is to make money. If animals get in the way they tend to try and resolve the matter in a harsh manner. The purpose, after all, is to make a profit.
Set against these sorts of people are animal lovers who are not motivated by making money. They are motivated by helping vulnerable animals. Their motivation is very strong as is their commitment. In this instance both these qualities saw them home in achieving an objective which was to rescue the cats and in doing so they stopped a commercial enterprise and its contractor.
The photograph on this page, which I like, shows animal rescuers from Animal Care and Control NYC trapping and removing some of the abandon cats from this building.
Source: New York Times and AtlasOscura.com