Wily Raccoon on the Run in Tribeca Defies Capture Efforts

A raccoon finds refuge on the tire of a car parked outside 110 Hudson Street. An onlooker had tried to woo him with a banana, to no avail. The critter had climbed two stories of the nearby building before a rescue operation by Bubby's workers brought it to safety. But the critter's adventures in Tribeca had just begun. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Dec. 09, 2020

Raccoon 1, Tribecans 0.

That was the score on Monday in a contest of wills between one lost furry mammal and a gaggle of locals whose persistent efforts to capture it with treats, sweet talk and tugs on its bushy tail were all met with defeat. 

The raccoon makes its way from the 110 Hudson Street entrance to the vacant bank building next door, which it quickly climbed. Video by Ahyun Go 

First seen around 10 a.m., the critter casually made its way down the steps of 110 Hudson Street, then caused a stir when it climbed some 20 feet to a nook on the building next door. 

That called for a rescue operation, and workers from Bubby’s responded. One of them, Eligio Escolastico, a server, climbed a column to near the animal, while two others, below, stood ready with a large tarp. Before Escolastico, basket in hand, gave it a push, “We opened up a tarp to catch it, to break its fall,” co-worker Carlos Milan said. “It fell off and the tarp broke its fall. It didn’t hit the ground at all, which is great.” 

Bubby's workers come to the rescue. After scaling a column, Eligio Escolastico give the animal a shove with a basket offered by a passerby, and two co-workers catch him in a tarp. Video by Nick Hugh Schmidt. (Co-posted on Twitter by WhatIsNewYork)

“We just did our thing as good Samaritans,” he added.

But this raccoon’s Tribeca adventures were only beginning 

He scampered beneath Frank Ahmadi’s food cart on the corner, then beneath Ahmadi’s car, parked next to the cart. Police continued to stand by on Hudson Street, including at least one member of the NYPD’s Counterterrorism Task Force, who was on the phone seeking advice. “This is a dumb question…” she began. 

Meanwhile, the animal holed up on the front left tire of Ahmadi’s Toyota 4Runner, apparently wishing the gawkers gathered nearby would wander away out of boredom. Indeed, the cops left the scene, but others were determined to coax the animal out, and Ahmadi said he feared that the animal would run into traffic when, at noon, he had to close down his cart and drive home. A mother and daughter brought the raccoon a banana and placed it on the tire, directly in front of the critter’s nose. Raccoons are known to eat about anything, with a special penchant, in urban areas, for trash can diving. But this one just peered out indiffrerently from the darkness.

Standing by, through what turned out to be a four-hour standoff, was Lauren Evans, 33, a writer-illustrator and animal rights activist, who was determined to see this creature end up somewhere green and safe. She called 311, walked over to the Ladder 8 firehouse (the firefighters were out on a call), and otherwise kept a close, adoring eye on the critter. (She resisted calling Animal Control, she said, because they would put the raccoon down.)  Evans also phoned her mother, Cynthia Eardley, who came by with a pet cage that looked just slightly smaller than the raccoon.

Finally, tired of the Toyota, the raccoon made its way to a van around the corner, trailed by Evans, cage in hand. When next seen, the creature was beneath the hood, snuggled behind the engine. With the hood up, Evans and others did all they could to extricate the animal from the vehicle, which belonged to plumber Chino Peña, who was working in the basement of 110 Hudson. 

“We want to help you baby, come on. Come on baby, come out,” Evans pleaded, alternately petting and gently tugging at the raccoon’s fur with a gloved hand. Joanne Chin and husband Gene Harrison arrived from Independence Plaza with a pole. Attempts at prying him out were of no use. Nor was faking him out, with raccoon sounds from YouTube.

By now there was a certain urgency. Peña would be driving home soon to the Bronx. In a last ditch, failed effort, he ran the engine for some 20 minutes, hood up. So off the two went.

The next day, Evans checked in with Peña, who told her the raccoon made the trip just fine and, in the morning, he was gone. He said he lives near parks where raccoons are common. 

Evans, who has rescued many birds, including a baby turkey, said she probably would have taken the raccoon to her home on West Broadway, given him a larger cage, some blankets, water and food, and kept him until a rescue organization with raccoon experience could suggest the next steps. As it turned out, she concluded, this was a happier ending, even after the long, fruitless effort. Besides, she was heartened by all the strangers who cared.

“I found it very sweet to see how many people wanted to help this big, lost raccoon,” she said.