Flushing ‘birdman’ lands in court on menacing rap

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For years Flushing's infamous "birdman," known for his habit of zealously feeding local animals, has aroused the ire of his neighbors. But now he has attracted the attention of the authorities.

The birdman, whose real name is Dominick Calamonaci, has been charged with slashing the tires of one of his neighbors, brandishing a tree branch at him and threatening to kill him, the Queens district attorney said.

Calamonaci, 53, was arraigned on charges of harassment, menacing and criminal mischief on May 20 and faces up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine if convicted, a spokeswoman for the district attorney said.

After Calamonaci was accused of threatening a neighbor, police at first had trouble locating him and arrested him after chasing him through the streets, authorities said.

"He was one of those guys - now you see him, now you don't," said Detective Frank Seabrook of the 109th Precinct.

According to the criminal complaint, on April 23 Calamonaci got into an argument with a neighbor who had criticized him about his littering. Calamonaci picked up a tree branch, waved it at the neighbor and threatened to kill him, the complaint said.

Three days later Calamonaci cut two tires of the neighbor's car, the complaint said.

"This guy is a petty bully," said the neighbor, who asked not to be identified. "He's intimidated everyone."

Neither Calamonaci nor his attorney could be reached for comment.

Calamonaci, who used to live near Flushing Fields park at Bayside Avenue and 149th Street, has drawn complaints from the local civic group, Community Board 7, former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman and Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) for years.

In the past, he has often scattered an unusual assortment of food in the park, said Tyler Cassell, president of the North Flushing Civic Association.

Once, Calamonaci tossed so many peanuts to animals that the shells formed a 3-inch deep pile around a tree, Cassell said.

"You think you are walking on some kind of fill, but the fill is all empty peanut shells," Cassell said.

More recently, Calamonaci has started putting cat food on plastic plates around the neighborhood, Cassell said.

"That type of food is not eaten by squirrels and pigeons," Cassell said. "It feeds the local animal population, whether it's stray cats or dogs and also brings in the rats."

Calamonaci puts boxes around food "so the elements wouldn't spoil it," said the neighbor he is accused of attacking.

While living on Bayside Avenue, Calamonaci often threw bags of garbage out his second-story window, his old neighbor said.

"He used to dump meat, biscuits, seeds, even fish meal," the neighbor said. "It was an animal feeding frenzy... Everyone in this complex was coughing. We feel it was the feces and dust kicked up from the animals."

Calamonaci was eventually evicted from the apartment, authorities said.

Liu said Calamonaci caused problems as far back as 2000, when Liu was president of the North Flushing Civic Association.

"This is a person who is not someone that anybody would want to be a neighbor with," he said.

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300 Ext. 141.

Updated 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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