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Residents growl about cat in city park (VIDEO & GALLERY)

POUGHKEEPSIE – When City of Poughkeepsie Councilman Ernest Henry sought office last year, he heard from several residents in and around North Perry Street about a “cat invasion” in the partially abandoned city park across the street. Since taking office, Henry has worked on several problems, including the park cats that force the neighbors to growl.

North Perry Street Park is a city park that is virtually deserted and area residents complain of rampant drug use in the back of the park and a large cat population. The cats, they say, are cared for by a small group of people who have taken over part of the park and created a cat shelter.

The cat caretakers have installed a large tarpaulin in the park that provides shelter for the wild animals and also serves as a dining room. The people who illegally erected the tent come to the park every day to feed the cats. They have also set up watering stations for unwanted animals. A neighbor told Mid Hudson News that the cats have turned the park into a giant litter box and the people feeding them refuse to stop, despite numerous complaints.

Councilman Henry says he has spoken to the man who installed the tarp and is the cats’ primary caretaker. Henry says the man refuses to dismantle the tent, forcing Henry to deal with the issue in other ways.

Working with the City DPW, workers have come in and cut the tall grass and started removing debris, but the cats remain.

“I contacted the Dutchess County SPCA to come get the cats, but they did nothing,” Henry said, adding, “I left messages for the city’s animal control and have not received a response.”

“The people in this neighborhood want a park that they can use. They don’t need to be exposed to rampant drug use and dozens of cats roaming around like this is a city zoo,” Henry said. “I am going to find a way to remove the cats and restore this park for the residents who want to enjoy it.” Henry has promised to find ways to remove the animal shelter and relocate the cats. The drug use will be brought to the attention of the city police, he said.

The park, according to former council member Chris Petsas, was built during the urban renewal period and contains what he calls “a unique piece of abstract art in the shape of a waterfall.” Not long after its construction, Petsas says, “a gruesome murder occurred in the park, which was abandoned and forgotten by the city.”

By the time Petsas took office, the falls and canal were filled with dirt. After his election, Petsas arranged for the pools to be excavated and worked on their restoration, but the city never followed through. “It was a good start, but it was never finished,” he says.