Roughly Speaking Dan Rodricks: Commentary and conversation on life in Baltimore, Maryland and the USA

In South Baltimore, a clash over pigeons ends in a campaign for dogs

Stroll with me down a wide and remarkably spotless alley on the south side of the city, a place where the frothy millennial wave washes against stubborn old Baltimore. There we encounter personalities and events unlikely to occur in the same combination anywhere else: a retired longshoreman named Rudy, a semi-retired contractor named Carl, a flock of pigeons, a court case over pigeon guano, and a personal injury lawyer who chides insurance companies not to “urinate on my leg and tell me it’s raining.”

The last you should immediately recognize as attorney Barry Glazer, star of tawdry television commercials promising, in distinctive Bawlmerese, to “make rain for the urinated upon,” and, quietly, a huge proponent of dog adoptions (the relevance of which will be clear by the time we finish our stroll).

In the matter before us, Glazer represents two middle-aged South Baltimore guys who like to see that pigeons are fed: Charles "Rudy" Schreiner and Carl Smith.

For 15 years, Schreiner rented a garage on Marshall Street to Smith, and Smith kept his tools and equipment there. Marshall Street is an alley street. Back in the heyday of South Baltimore pigeon clubs, people kept racing pigeons cooped up there. The descendants of those pigeons are still in the area; they did not flock to the suburbs.

Smith had a routine: He would drive from his nearby apartment, park his pickup truck next to the garage on Marshall Street, throw some cat food to the pigeons, then go to work in the garage.

To some, Smith was known as the pigeon whisperer of South Baltimore.

All of this was fine until a couple of years ago, when a new apartment building went up across from the garages on Marshall Street. The building, known as 2 East Wells, has rooftop decks and apartment terraces, along with a rooftop fitness center, all of it offering great views of the city.

It’s a new place made for new Baltimoreans, the millennials who move here for college and for jobs. Marshall Street is where the two Baltimores we love and need — new blood and old bones; cool urban living and a solid rowhouse neighborhood — live side-by-side.

And mostly in harmony, mostly in balance.

But I bet you can see where this adventure in modern Baltimore goes next. (And if you happened to have read my February column on this subject, you’re way ahead of those just joining the stroll.)

The people who own the building claimed difficulty in renting some of the balconied apartments on the Marshall Street side because of “the copious pigeon dropping issue." The owner of the apartments filed a complaint in Baltimore Circuit Court asking that Schreiner and Smith be enjoined from further pigeon feeding, and that the men pay $75,000 in damages.

Carl Smith was shocked.

"I have no control over where the pigeons poop,” he said.

He and Schreiner enlisted thee help of Glazer — he of the scatological ballyhoos on television. The lawyer filed a countersuit, claiming Schreiner and Smith had been subjected to an "improper, frivolous and baseless" legal action.

Now, six months later, Glazer reports a settlement in the case:

Smith will stop feeding pigeons on Marshall Street or anywhere within a designated perimeter, and the owner of 2 East Wells will pay Smith and Schreiner $15,000. The owner of the apartments will also make an effort to establish a bench, bird bath and bird-feeding station in Riverside Park, a few blocks to the east.

That’s according to the settlement Glazer shared with me. (I have not had the pleasure of communication with the attorney for the apartment owner; she never got back to me.)

It’s important to note that Smith will continue to feed pigeons; he just won’t toss the cat food on the Marshall Street side of the garage.

“I was already feeding them in the back of the garage,” he says. “The [apartment managers] said they noticed a difference when I fed in the back. I still feed the pigeons pretty much every day.”

And how do dogs get into this act? It turns out that Glazer is a big-time dog lover. He owns Swan Harbor Animal Hospital and the Downtown Dog Resort and Spa, both on the south side of the city. In addition, Glazer is the founder of Stop Killing Dogs Inc., a nonprofit he says he established to advocate for a ban on canine euthanization. He would also like to purchase land for a dog sanctuary.

Smith did not want his share of the settlement from the pigeon case, so he’s donating it to Stop Killing Dogs. Glazer says he’s doing the same with his share.

So, final score: Apartment owner worries less about pigeons being a menace and inhibiting rentals, Smith can keep feeding the birds he loves in the back of the garage, and Glazer gets a donation toward his quiet campaign to save dogs.

I hope you enjoyed the stroll.

 

drodricks@baltsun.com

twitter.com/DanRodricks

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