A Maspeth couple who claim they were unfairly forced out of their co op for fostering abandoned parrots are finding their travails to be a blessing in disguise.
While the cloud of an unresolved legal battle with the former co op lingers, Gayle and Barry Schwartz say they and their feathered friends couldn’t be happier since moving to their spacious new digs in Maspeth Plateau.
“Our birds are adjusting nicely to the new place,” Gayle Schwartz said last week.
The co owners of Maspeth Bird Haven, the borough’s only parrot adoption agency, left Ridgewood Gardens Cooperative in September following a protracted legal dispute that stemmed from neighbors’ complaints over bird noise.
The Schwartzes founded the nonprofit group shortly after they moved into the co op in early 2005. Spurred by a shared love for exotic birds, the then newlyweds set up a Web site to network with people looking to give away their parrots. They cared for more than a dozen birds while searching for new adoptive owners.
But in March 2006, the co op’s board of directors slapped the couple with a pre eviction notice, citing repeated complaints from residents over the cacophony of squawks, chirps and caws emanating from the Schwartzes’ apartment.
The board also alleged in a lawsuit that the couple improperly used their apartment to run a business and failed to clean up after their pets—all charges the pair adamantly deny to this day. “Everything they said against us—there is just no way that could have happened,” Gary Schwartz said. “We take great care of our birds.”
The couple’s lawyers later rebutted the claims in a countersuit, and by August, had not only convinced the co op to withdraw its suit, but agreed to settle out of court for $2,000. The Schwartzes are still waiting for their check to arrive.
In the meantime, they are relishing every moment they have in their new home. Their red living room walls are lined with neatly stacked cages, replete with colorful toys, wooden perches and fluffy beds for parrots who prefer sleeping in a warm enclosure.
The two story house in Maspeth Plateau has allowed the Schwartzes to expand parrot rearing operations from one to two floors, while increasing their capacity for new foster birds from two at a time to six. A new quarantine area also allows the couple to treat sick birds in isolation.
Best of all, say the Schwartzes, the birds now have more space to fly outside their cages, through a maze of hallways, stairwells and wide open rooms. “Parrots are extremely active and social animals,” Barry explained, as a bright green Amazon parrot named Maya fluttered into the kitchen and landed on his wife’s shoulder. “The place lets our birds fly around and interact with each other, more like if they were out in the wild.”
“Don’t forget another plus,” Gayle added later, pointing to two thick walls that block much of the sound from reaching adjoining houses. “No more nosy neighbors.”