What Happened When I Became New York’s Famous Pigeon Lady

Published April 15, 2016
Updated February 10, 2017
Published April 15, 2016
Updated February 10, 2017

Early bird in #Washingtonsquarepark. now! #iloveyoupigeons #vegantaxidermy

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One way to expedite the process is by bringing her knitted pigeons — which she makes from wire, yarn and sweater trimmings — out for public display in some of New York’s most expansive public spaces, like Washington Square Park and Union Square.

“I started out doing exhibits in [Brooklyn] and got tired of it, so my husband was like ‘Try Washington Square Park,’” Trachtenberg said. “At first I said, ‘No, that’s like NYU, and I can’t imagine it’s cool.’

“But my husband said, ‘You and I, let’s go one day and we’ll try it out.’ So we went one Sunday morning, and it was incredible. It’s this magical place in a city that wants to turn into a mall.”

From 2014 on, Trachtenberg has spent multiple days each week in the city’s most traversed public squares, offering her pigeon wares and performance art to passersby. But in doing so, this also meant that she had to interact with fellow park buskers, which she first thought may have had its own politics.

“I’m the kind of person, I want people to like me,” Trachtenberg said. “If I’m in someone’s spot I won’t be there.”

“I toss leftover food in the tracks, to feed the rats in the subways, whenever I can.”

So far, though, Trachtenberg has found the environment more welcoming than competitive. “Everyone is good about it, everyone works together really well…when everyone was really nice to me and was like ‘Hey Tina,’ I was like ‘Yes, I’m in.’”

That’s not to say that her work has been uniformly well received, however. “One day I was just sitting there with my birds,” Trachtenberg said, “And this guy with a guitar on his back came up to me and said something like, ‘I hate these fucking birds.’ So he walks through and starts kicking them, making a path he can walk through. I was laughing and thinking, ‘Okay, weirdo,’ and then I kind of just let him do it. I’m not going to stop a crazy person.”

Trachtenberg’s work with birds — which she sells for around $40 each — has led her to take interest in creatively highlighting the plight of another urban pest: the rat. “I’ve always enjoyed seeing them in the train station,” Trachtenberg said. “I get really excited but worried that they’ll run across and someone will stomp on them. Whenever I go out to eat, I toss leftover food in the tracks, to feed the rats in the subways, whenever I can.”