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Friday, September 29, 2023
Home Government City of Rye Lawsuit & The Owl of Lynden Street

Lawsuit & The Owl of Lynden Street

(PHOTO: The Owl of Lynden Street.)
(PHOTO: The Owl of Lynden Street.)

When you write community news you spend a lot of time reading public documents – meeting agendas, minutes, proposals, reports, court documents and more. All of these documents have a high level of dull and the occasional good information nugget. These documents rarely make you smile, which is why we were so thrilled to meet The Owl of Lynden Street.

Central to the current vitriol among the City Council is the 92 page lawsuit filed by Rye Mayor Josh Cohn and his Gang of Four against the City’s own Board of Ethics. It was the activity around the City’s tree ordinance that started this entire imbroglio, so Cohn et al included a few resident letters about trees as exhibits in the current lawsuit.

Page 39 of the lawsuit is a letter to Rye City Council written from The Owl of Lynden Street. Using Cornell’s excellent bird identification app Merlin we confirmed The Owl of Lynden Street is a Barred Owl who makes the recognizable “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all” call. According to eBird (also from Cornell, and also an excellent resource) The Barred Owl “Favors large, mature forests with deciduous and coniferous trees, often near water.” If you guessed The Owl of Lynden Street might favor a tree ordinance, you would be correct:

In the letter, part of Exhibit 2 of the lawsuit, The Owl of Lynden Street said:

“Dear Rye City Council Members,
please adopt the 3-month moratorium on the ‘clear-cutting’ of trees in Rye at the special meeting being held on February 6, 2023. Mature trees, such as the one I am pictured in below, – where I snooze in the early mornings to rest up for my night-shift, – are vital in preserving the vibrancy of my critter community. The felling of these great trees by developers, who are currently transforming the city of Rye lot by lot, must be paused and eventually stopped for the sake of the little animals, such as I. Graciously yours, the Owl of Lynden St.”

The Owl of Lynden Street says please, makes a cogent argument in a visual storytelling style and signs his correspondence using the word graciously. If they give a hoot, perhaps our current Council should give up its antics and begin to model its behavior after The Owl of Lynden Street. That would be a very wise move.


  1. For years, the families of Rye Gate (Oakwood and Elmwood Avenues) enjoyed the sound of a Barred Owl at night. But as neighbors cut down trees, the owl found a new home. We lost at least 7 trees over the span of as many years. In one instance, a homeowner cut down three healthy trees because they were “inconvenient.” None of these trees were replaced. Perhaps the Owl of Lynden Street is really the Owl of Rye Gate. Perhaps we would still enjoy the reassurance of their nighttime hoots had the City acted on revising the tree law rather than wait until the problem happens in an elected’s back yard.

  2. The argument and pleading made by the owl is so relevant to how we should respect and preserve the nature and environment in Rye as a whole, especially regarding the over development such as many larger homes being built on small lots with trees chopped down ruthlessly. But the lawsuit is beyond the subject of trees and owls although it started as such. The lawsuit is more about how our city should be governed and what would be a tolerable scrutiny


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