The skies of Bushwick have been emptier since a massive fire, a week ago, killed 500 trained pigeons trapped on the roof of a DeKalb Avenue building. But racing pigeons still fly over the neighborhood. On a recent afternoon, a flock of the beautiful, multi-colored birds passed over one of the buildings that lines the eastern side of Maria Hernandez Park. Some were bright white with brown wings, others black with grey specks; some had small short beaks, or feather “crowns” on top of their heads. These were no rats with wings.
To get to his rooftop, Paul Wohlfarth passes by a gigantic stag’s head hanging in the hallway, climbs a wobbly ladder and slips through a narrow opening. The 64-year-old has been repeating these gymnastics for the past six decades. On top of his building is a fenced coop, housing more than 250 pigeons in different compartments. Wohlfarth, a roofer by profession, can recognize any of his birds in a flash. “That one with the blue band is a tippler,” he says. “It’s got a short beak, a wide eye. If you didn’t know, you’d think it’s a street pigeon. But there are a million breeds.”