Dean Olsher, the former host and creator of The Next Big Thing on public radio, now a grad student in music at Queens College, was at the Atlantic-Pacific Street subway stop in Brooklyn yesterday at about 4:30 p.m. when he saw something strange. A turtle was on the platform, “freaking out and trying to hide underneath the benches.” There was a cardboard box nearby. The video above, which he took, shows the turtle wandering about on the platform.
Olsher tells us he asked three MTA conductors to call Animal Control. Instead, NYPD showed up, and he says, “It went downhill from there.” He suggested that he himself take the turtle and release it in the park, and was allowed to pick it up and put it in the box. After that, however, Olsher says one of the cops reached out and grabbed him, then told him they had to wait for a supervisor. There was another bystander, Olsher says, who was a lawyer and explained he didn’t have to stay. Why all this, for a lost turtle? “I think by getting the supervisor they were trying to cover themselves. I’m not going to go to jail for a turtle! This is ridiculous.”
Prior to the interaction with the cops, someone on the platform had mentioned the “missing turtle in the news,” meaning Lionel, the box turtle that’s been missing from Inwood Hill Park since December 1. Olsher reports that the turtle on the platform was “small, like a box turtle, and had a red stripe.” Of course, we are not zoologists; we also don’t know whether the subway turtle had the red eyes consistent with the species. But whether or not it’s Lionel, it’s a turtle on a subway platform.
Olsher told us the bystander who’d been involved on the platform spoke to a park ranger later that night who said it was “unlikely the turtle would have walked to Brooklyn.” Stranger things have happened (see Willow the cat) — who, it turns out, was actually carried by someone human.
What happened to maybe-Lionel? Olsher says the last he saw, the cops had the turtle in the box. He’d been there about an hour and a half at that point, and left.
We contacted the Parks Department for the latest on Lionel’s whereabouts and will update when we hear back. We also contacted the NYPD to see what became of the turtle in the box, and whether they had any comment on what happened yesterday. The person we spoke to hadn’t heard anything about reports of “a turtle [or any animal, he said] in transit” but is looking into the incident. The MTA hadn’t heard anything about a turtle on the subway, either, though a spokesman told us, “That looks like a red-eared slider turtle.”
Meanwhile, Lionel hasn’t Tweeted since December 13…does this mean he’s out of range? Lionel! Come home.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 15, 2011