Queens is for the birds — at least when it comes to the new law passed last week to stop the poor things from killing themselves en masse by flying into our windows and glass-encased buildings. Every one of our members of the City Council voted for the measure, which passed 43-3 last Tuesday, except for Eric Ulrich, who was absent.
The bill attacks a serious problem — as many as 230,000 birds die in the city each year because they crash into glass they don’t see, according to NYC Audubon. And even that tally may be low. Nationwide, the figure is about 600 million a year, according to the American Bird Conservancy, out of which you’d expect New York City to be responsible for more than the 0.04 percent represented by 230,000.
That’s because the city lies along the Atlantic Flyway, one of only four major north-south paths across the country used by migrating birds. It’s the same reason you can see so many nonnative birds at Jamaica Bay during the spring and fall migrations.
So the City Council decided, with minimal dissent, to mandate that owners of new buildings install bird-protective glass on the lower 75 feet of a structure. Existing buildings will not be affected until they undergo renovations. And materials that are not bird-friendly will still be allowed for up to 10 square feet within any 10-by-10-foot area of exterior wall.
Owners will have options on what type of glass to install. It could be glass that uses fritting: ceramic lines or dots we can barely see but that jump out at birds. Or it could be glass that has strips in it that reflect ultraviolet light. Birds see them; we don’t. Over time, new technologies are likely to develop.
Yes, there will be some increase in costs for the private sector. But it should not be crippling. Evidence that the costs can be absorbed can be found in the Real Estate Board of New York’s take on the bill. Rather than opposing it, REBNY thanked the Council for addressing its concerns, while hoping lawmakers will track the availability of bird-protective materials.
Mayor de Blasio will sign the bill, and it will take effect one year later. It’s a step we support to help harmonize our relationship with the natu
ral world without causing great controversy or strife among people.