NYC Mayor’s Office Steps in to Save Cats

Cats at a housing community in Queens narrowly escaped a cruel fate last week when cat advocates successfully persuaded the New York City Mayor’s Office to step in to save their lives. Fortunately the cats survived, but the near-tragedy at the Ravenswood Houses illustrates the need for humane policy changes at the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and housing authorities nationwide. 

For months, local groups have offered to perform Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) for feral cats at the Ravenswood Houses community in Queens, but NYCHA would not allow it. Earlier this week, NYCHA opted instead for a reckless and inhumane approach – locking up the building crawlspaces without ensuring all the cats were able to exit

Cats were stranded inside these crawlspaces with no way to get out, as Alley Cat Allies received reports that temperatures under the buildings could reach 150 degrees. The only food and water provided was set inside traps, but NYCHA checked the traps just twice per day, meaning cats could be trapped for hours on end in lethal heat.  While the cats suffered needlessly, NYCHA callously prevented people who wanted to rescue the cats from saving their lives. 

Alley Cat Allies sent a letter to NYCHA chairman John B. Rhea, and copied Mayor Bloomberg, asking NYCHA to unlock the crawlspaces immediately and allow rescuers access to the cats. We asked our network of supporters to do the same. By Tuesday afternoon, however, activists had only been allowed limited access to rescue one cat, and NYCHA falsely insisted that no other cats were trapped in the crawlspaces. 

Finally, on Wednesday, the Mayor’s Office intervened and ordered that local TNR group SaveKitty Foundation be granted access to the crawlspaces. Rescue work began last Thursday morning — one cat has been rescued from under the buildings and several more have been sighted.

The rescue at Ravenswood Houses is a great victory for animal protection and thanks are due to the Mayor’s Office, SaveKitty Foundation, and the hundreds of compassionate people who contacted NYCHA and took action on behalf of these cats. 

But there’s still more work to be done; a permanent humane policy does not exist for NYCHA residences.

Although NYCHA has not allowed the group to perform TNR, SaveKitty Foundation has been advocating for cats at Ravenswood Houses for months and has removed dozens of adoptable cats and kittens from the property. (Many of these cats still need new homes — if you can foster or adopt them, please contact the SaveKitty Foundation.) 

Most importantly, a humane TNR program must be implemented to care for the remaining cats living at Ravenswood Houses. Trap-Neuter-Return is the humane, effective approach for feral cats. Cats no longer undergo the strains of mating or pregnancy.  The behaviors associated with mating, such as yowling and fighting, stop. There are no new kittens and the colony size stabilizes. Local groups are still offering to carry out TNR at Ravenswood Houses at no cost to NYCHA or the city, and many residents have supported this offer from the beginning. Even NYCHA itself does not deny that TNR works, as expressed in a letter to SaveKitty Foundation: “NYCHA is not disputing the effectiveness of the program as a means of controlling a feral cat population.” Still, NYCHA refuses to allow TNR, turning a blind eye to the best interest of the cats and to sound proven policies, while disregarding the humane wishes of the community. 

This isn’t the first time NYCHA has pushed through bad policy regarding animals. In 2009, they revised their pet policy, putting weight and breed restrictions on residents’ pets — a policy that caused people to give up their pets and resulted in a surge of animals relinquished to local shelters.

Authoritative bodies like NYCHA have the opportunity to set a standard of compassion by embracing humane policies. Alley Cat Allies will continue to urge NYCHA to work with the local volunteers and groups to develop and maintain sound, humane policies and programs that will benefit the animals and the community. 


Becky Robinson is the founder and president of Alley Cat Allies, a national advocacy organization dedicated to transforming and developing communities to protect and improve the lives of cats. 


photo credit: Alley Cat Allies
by Becky Robinson, founder and president of Alley Cat Allies


Robin U.
J. Robin U5 years ago

Dear Warren O: being humane towards animals and being humane towards people of all ages are not mutually exclusive. Most people who are kind to animals are kind to people as well and also have strong tendencies to support causes like the one you mentioned in addition to saving animals and promoting humane treatment. It's not either/or. It's more like we tend to view the world holistically and believe in kindness and humane treatment for all living creatures, humans included. For the record, I completely agree with what you're saying about guns and I'm very sorry that a gun tragedy has affected you in a very personal way. However, If we waited until all the human problems were solved, no one would ever get to animals, who, as truly innocent and sentient beings, really are equally worthy.

Warren Osborn
Warren Osborn5 years ago

There is something seriously wrong when 18,000 people will sign a petition to save dogs or cats but only nine sign one to keep kids safe from those who would give them guns and turn them loose with them to be safe or die. That's how my 11 year old nephew died March 4. He went hunting with his 12 year old friend who dropped his gun and shot my nephew in the back of the head. For those who want to look up the news story try KTUL-8 in Tulsa OK or KSN-TV in Joplin MO. His name was James Ridge Foster. I say the life of one child is worth more than those of every cat and dog on Earth combined.

RIP Little Buddy.

C. B.
Connie B.5 years ago

Thank you Martha for clarifying who was really responsible. I think it's important that people know that the Mayor, while doing some good work with regard to animals, has also supported (and continues to) those who profit from the death of innocent "shelter" animals and their vindictive policies towards the rescue organizations whose sole motive is to SAVE & find good homes for as many animals as possible. And they do it all with very little money vs. the millions Julie Banks & the ACC have to work with. It's important to know that he only acted when PRESSURED to do so. Why? Because, 1) the TRUTH is ALWAYS good to know & 2) we must never forget that OUR VOICES MEAN SOMETHING. I wish that information had been included in the original article.

Martha W.
Martha W6 years ago

The person who deserves the heroine award for initiating this move to save the cats is Debi Romano, founder and President of the Queens, NYC based SaveKittyFoundation.

She is the sole person responsible for alerting everyone else about this plight and it was SHE who went into the crawl spaces to retrieve cats at risk of dying (and it was in the worst heat of summer) and I hope that everyone understands that these 600 cats are in better shape and lives saved due to HER efforts.

SaveKittyFoundation mounted a phone in campaign which was the real reason why the Mayor took action and made the Housing Authority relent. I was one of hundreds who was alerted.

After the cats were released and the crawl spaces were unblocked, there was a party for Debie and also for Rosary Immordino who was extremely active and present in this crisis. Rosary is Exec. Director of Save Kitty. I went to that party.

Also, the cable TV program for NYC, "NY 1", cited Debie Romano as Person of the Week.

Monique Freericks

Thank You people who loved animals.

Carol Cowbrough
Carol C7 years ago

Good on the Mayor!

Bruce Weir7 years ago

Glad to hear that the 'Authorities' are beginning to listen to common sense - Alley Cat Allies did a good job! My interest in this is that living in France where the cat is not regarded very highly I want to present a petition to our 'Authorities' to encourage FRANCE TO BE CAT-FRIENDLY.

Bruce Weir7 years ago

Glad to hear that the 'Authorities' are beginning to listen to common sense - Alley Cat Allies did a good job! My interest in this is that living in France where the cat is not regarded very highly I want to present a petition to our 'Authorities' to encourage FRANCE TO BE CAT-FRIENDLY.

mariya s.
Mari S7 years ago

You're fantastic Mayor Bloomberg -- keep up this kind of great work. Now, to urge NYCHA to implement TNR as per request of Becky Robinson at Alley Cat Allies -- TNR is a win-win for everyone involved, including the cats.

Jamaka P.
Jamaka P7 years ago

We love "Smokin' Bloomberg"! ^^