Penguin Caper On Coney IslandA May 10th, 1965 article in the NY Times began: "A penguin riding a BMT subway train of the West End line was taken into custody yesterday after biting a Transit Authority detective on the thumb." Unsurprisingly, this story really began with a bunch of unruly teenagers.
The New York Historical Society has published an amazing new book called, "When Did the Statue of Liberty Turn Green? & 101 Other Questions About New York City." The above penguin story is one of those other 101 questions, and below is their detailed account of what happened the day before that NY Times article was published:
On May 9th, 1965, a Transit Authority detective watched a group of teenagers board a subway car at Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island. They got off the train at Bay Parkway, leaving behind a cardboard box. When the detective saw the box move, he hit it with his nightstick—and out popped a beak. Thinking that the teens had captured a seagull, the officer, box in hand, switched trains, planning to release the bird at Stillwell Avenue's open-air station. Upon arrival, the detective opened the box and was promptly bitten on the thumb. Angry, he kicked the box, which tipped over, freeing his attacker. An onlooker identified the bird as a penguin. After recapturing the wandering bird (and receiving a shot at the local hospital), the detective contacted the Coney Island Aquarium. A head count by the aquarium's superintendent showed that one penguin was indeed missing.Teen crime used to be way more interesting.
Another penguin was stolen in May 1967, prompting the aquarium to rebuild its enclosure. It added a larger barricade, separating visitors from animals and protecting the birds from further interference.