It was a normal summer Sunday afternoon at beautiful Maria Hernandez Park in Bushwick.
At first the scene looked quite wholesome to us.
People were enjoying the day doing regular things like playing basketball,
as well as skateboarding
and flying kites
and riding bicycles.
Others were strolling (sometimes with kids in strollers) and sedentary types were sitting on benches shooting the humid breeze.
People were drinking cold water and eating ices and lying on the grass and splashing in water spray and just chilling out.
Everything was perfect until we came across what turned out to be an outlandishly weird scene.
A "Hamster Water Park."
We'd never heard of such a thing, but it turned out to be a bizarre "art performance" project, part of Bushwick Open Studios.
This was the alleged rationale:
Seeing a need in the Bushwick hamster community for “smaller” water parks “where dogs can’t eat us” and “we can’t get stuck in any drains,” business man/entertainer/waterslide enthusiast Hank Schwarzkopf opens Hamster Water Park. The Sunday of BOS weekend will be the park’s grand opening. Admission free for all hamsters, children will be provided with pellets to feed the furry animals through the gates.
We observed the weird goings-on involving rodents, an oddly-shaped apparatus and innocent children lured there by a sinister and insistent figure.
Now, as a boy growing up in Flatlands, we had a pet hamster. Our youngest brother named him Mr. Schwartz, after a man our Grandpa Nat and Grandpa Herb played pinochle with. Mr. Schwartz was a terrific pet. We'd hear his squeaky wheel night and day until that sad Yom Kippur when the squeaky wheel (we never greased it) stopped turning. Mr. Schwartz died of unknown causes, though our middle brother said the poor creature caught our youngest brother's cold. Anyway, we've always been extremely sensitive to any mistreatment of hamsters.
After documenting the perverse activities, we quite naturally notified authorities about these unnatural acts. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty for Animals (ASPCA) immediately sent over a van to Maria Hernandez Park, parking just outside on Knickerbocker Avenue.
Following a brief look at the Hamster Water Park, the ASPCA people called the NYPD. Two officers from the 83rd Precinct also came swiftly.
They asked us not to take pics as they shut down the "art project." The "artists" in charge of it were charged with 17 counts of animal cruelty and 3 counts of endangering the welfare of a minor.
Each count carries a punishment of up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine. A police spokeswoman refused to comment whether the "artists" had, as rumored by some in the park, been previously involved in cockfighting or rodent neglect. She did say that the "artists" were sent to Rikers Island in lieu of $5,000 cash or $10,000 bond bail.
The hamsters were released on their own recognizance.