Last week, when the identity of lower Manhattan’s Sad Panda was revealed in documentarian Michelle Tay’s video, it reminded us of hungry pandas and our local panda food supply. Most of you may know that the black-and-white bears like to eat the shoots, leaves, and crunchy stalks of bamboo plants and in Sheepshead Bay, we appear to have our very own supply.
It’s not the first time that we’ve been reminded of pandas and bamboo. This January, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington. D.C. said that their resident pandas’ food supply of fresh bamboo was dangerously low, and they issued a request for bamboo from private supplies. At the time, we almost called the zoo to alert them to all the bamboo at the intersection of Avenue X and East 16th Street.
“Bamboo in Sheepshead Bay?” you ask. Yes, folks, if Sad Panda and his true life friends found themselves in our neighborhood, they would happen upon a mostly-flourishing grove of bamboo plants on which to feast. Unfortunately, though, the National Zoo’s pandas were not going to be able to benefit from this bamboo, because it did not meet the criteria (minimum one acre, no more than 30 miles from the zoo, 100 feet from a roadway, not treated with pesticides).
Okay, so neither the costumed panda or his real-life friends would be nourished by the stuff – but there must be other uses for it.
Sad Panda (a.k.a., Jialeng Chen), who lost his job as a restaurant worker, makes $1 to $30 a day putting on a pout for the tourists to snap a picture with him. Maybe, he can harvest some of the young plants, put them in pretty pots, stick on a pretty red bow, and sell them for $30 a pop. Who, in this economy, wouldn’t want a little lucky bamboo to help them find a job?
It’s not clear as to who owns the land where the bamboo plants are growing. The small patch of land is fenced on three sides and has a concrete wall at the back where the B and Q train rumble past. On one side, there appears to be an access gate from the next door resident’s yard – which looks a lot like some kind of gardening workshop.
This brings us to the 800-pound gorilla in the room. What exactly is a bamboo grove doing in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn?
Our general research tells us that bamboo is an invasive plant that can be detrimental to the native plants of Northeast America. Other information on Chiff.com suggests that this plant is “not a bamboo at all … but a resilient member of the lily family”.
We would appreciate hearing from anyone who can shed some authoritative light on the lingering questions behind the “Mysterious Case of the Sheepshead Bay Bamboo.” Your response just might bring a smile to Sad Panda’s face.