Pigeon Lady

Pigeon Fancier

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.

Pigeon Lady's NYC

Photo by Scott Newman
  • "The Bronx Equestrian Center in Pelham Bay is a great place to go horseback riding. You get free rein of the horse and if they see that you know how to ride they don't babysit you."
  • "Come on... it's The Bronx Zoo. It's one of the best around. They have excellent exhibits and an exotic selection of animals."
  • The New York Aquarium - Source: www.flickr.com/photos/geirw/
    "To me, this is the most relaxing place in New York City. It's soothing to just sit and watch the fish swim. It's also in Coney Island, which is a really cool place."
  • "I'm a history buff so this is the place to go to satisfy that part of me. They also have an exceptional collection of all types of skeletons."
  • Maspeth Bird Store - Source: www.buytaert.net
    "This is a great little bird store out in Queens. They have an excellent selection of pigeons including Fancies. If you can make it out there, it's better than going online."
  • "This is my favorite building in New York. I highly suggest everyone visit it. The Empire State Building gets all the props but this building is better, I mean, Lex Luthor's office was in this building so it's gotta be cool."
  • "This is an example of beautiful architecture. The building is so alive with restaurants, cafes, people...it feels good just being in there, unless of course you're forced to be there because of a delay, in which case it sucks."
  • Yoshi Sushi - Source: www.yoshisushinewyork.com
    "This is my spot in a clutch, when I don't want to think of where to go. When all I want to do is eat and eat good. It's a really small place so you get individual attention and they do really beautiful things with fish."
  • "Let's get real here for a second. The food here is really fucking good. They're open 24 hours but the good chefs are there midnight to 5 a.m. It's your typical Chinatown hole in the wall but the food is absolutely where it's at. There are two Wo Hops on the same block, so remember to go to the one that's downstairs. Hit the basement, get the Szechuan Lobster and go to bed happy."
  • "Paul's makes the best burgers in New York and don't try to tell me different. They have tons a varieties. You can get any kind of special burger yet it still tastes like meat. Good meat."
  • "This is one of my favorite shops in New York. They have tons of shiny expensive things and the whole store just reeks of money."
  • "My father is an old school jazz guy and back in the day he started this building as a vocational arts building with federal funding. All the old jazz heads used to come down and play. My dad spent a long time working on the preservation of jazz and this spot allowed musicians to let their hair down after commercial gigs. Now we've scaled down the operation a bit but it's still a place for artists to cultivate and show their work."

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