Produced by Scott Newman & Marc Santo
Camera by Rainer Evans
Edited by Kyle Gilman
Meet the "Pigeon Lady", an East Village pigeon fancier who's been stealing pigeons from prized coops for nearly a decade. From the drug dealers who use pigeons to carry illicit messages from one checkpoint to the next, to the bird wars and the sociopaths who fight them, the Pigeon Lady breaks down the New York City pigeon scene and explains exactly where this scene thrives.
Up until the 80’s pigeon racing was primarily a "made man's" sport and a relatively common site around New York, but as the size of the Italian Mafia began to dwindle so did the amount of pigeon fanciers and the amount of pigeon wars. There’s still a notable amount of flocks in the East Village, but most of today's culture thrives in the outer boroughs where new generations of mostly Spanish fanciers hold pigeon auctions where prized birds are still bought and sold for thousands of dollars.
The Pigeon Lady (Alayne Patur Salahuddeen) grew up in the East Village in a building her father, jazz musician Muhammad Salaahuddeen, used as an underground squat and afterhours saloon for touring jazz musicians. Alyne started collecting and racing pigeons on a suggestion from an old boyfriend and today her East Village rooftop coop fluxuates between 200 and 300 birds. If you happen to be in Tompkins Square Park, just before dusk, look up on the corner of 7th Street and Avenue A and admire the sight.