Kite Fighting Becomes a Menace to Broad Channel


Kite flying is a seemingly innocent activity, but those engaging in something called kite fighting, have been a menace to the environment, wildlife and residents of Broad Channel. As the activity has seemed to increase in recent months around the baseball fields of Broad Channel American Park, locals are hoping something can be done to curb this dangerous activity before something worse happens.

In recent months, Dan Mundy Jr. of the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers and Broad Channel Civic Association, has been coming across thick, sharp string strung across marshlands, Jamaica Bay, Sunset Cove and rooftops, with spools of it left in Broad Channel American Park. “When I first grabbed it, it cut my hand,” Mundy said of his first experience with the line. After doing some research, Mundy found that the string is designed to do just that.

The string is embedded with glass or sharp metal, made specially for an activity called kite fighting. An activity made popular by Asian, Middle Eastern and Indian cultures, kite fighting involves small kites flown high in the sky with hundreds to thousands of feet of this abrasive line. The goal is to cut someone else’s kite down with the sharp wire. The line is so sharp that those flying the kites wear thick gloves to avoid cutting their own hands.

In recent months, kite fighting has found its way to Broad Channel, with groups taking to American Park to engage in the activity. While fun for those involved, the activity has been destructive for the surrounding community.

In early August, a young boy was riding his bike in the new Sunset Cove park when he went flying off of his bike and on to his back. He had run into a wire strung across the pedestrian path. The same happened to Dan Mundy Sr. by the ballfields. At the time, the Mundys didn’t know what was going on. In recent weeks, more of this abrasive kite string, including large spools, plus kites and thick gloves, have been found around the ballfield. The string has been found streaked across the newly-planted marshlands of Sunset Cove. Homeowners have also found the long strings draped across their rooftops, backyards and around utility poles, the lines continuing for several blocks. And worse? It has been found wrapped around wildlife.

One Broad Channel resident said she heard a seagull in distress and spotted it caught in the wire in the canal by West 15th Road. Lucky for the seagull, the woman paddle boarded over and was able to free the bird. Others haven’t been as lucky. One day while kayaking around Jamaica Bay, Mundy says he came across four dead waterfowl. They all had the wire wrapped around them. “They were all entangled in the rope and probably panicked and after a while, they died,” Mundy said. “When I’m out now, I take a knife with me. I come across three to five of these kites and they’re always connected to 500 to 1,000 feet of string. I couldn’t figure out what was going on at first. I thought maybe it was a kite celebration and they had fallen loose.”

After doing research and seeing large groups of as many as 50 people flying about 20 kites in American Park, Mundy has become more familiar with the act of kite fighting. Now knowing what it is, thinking back, Mundy says the kites started appearing in the last two or three years, but during the coronavirus shutdowns, the activity has heavily increased. “It’s building here. It’s becoming very popular. And last night, there must have been 20 of them. Most of the line went out into the bay and it went across my house and for six blocks across six canals. It’s unbelievable how far it goes,” he said. “They’re flying these kites at altitudes up to 1000 feet or maybe higher and they’re violating FAA regulations this close to an airport.”

In addition to the rope already causing bike accidents and killing wildlife, Mundy and other Broad Channel residents are concerned about what else can come from this activity if something isn’t done to stop it. “If this comes into contact with a car or boat, this can really hurt someone,” he said.

Kite fighting causing serious injury is not new to New York. In October 2009, a 12-year-old boy almost lost his life due to the activity. Jared Kopeloff was skateboarding outside of his home in Flushing when he was clotheslined by one of the kite strings. The sharp line cut his throat from ear to ear. The boy survived but lost two lymph nodes and required as many as 500 stitches. The family later sued the city for allowing kite fighting to take place in the nearby Flushing Meadows Park.

Local residents are hoping more will be done to crack down on kite fighting in Broad Channel before more harm is done. “This is ridiculous. Perhaps some of them doing this don’t realize the damage they’re doing, but when you’re leaving behind this rope and gloves, there’s no excuse for that,” Munday said. “This is extremely dangerous, and it has a big environmental impact and it can’t continue. The people doing it have to be educated. There needs to be signage and enforcement from police and NYC Parks. We can’t have this going on.”

The NYC Parks Department says they have been made aware of what’s taking place at Broad Channel American Park and they are working to address concerns. “We ask all patrons to be mindful of how they dispose of their equipment including kite strings, reels, and sharp shards,” a Parks spokesperson said. “Our Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) officers will monitor the park to enforce Parks’ rules and address kite debris complaints. We are committed to maintaining clean and safe parks and remind everyone to do their part by placing trash in the appropriate receptacles.”

To report problems relating to kite fighting, call 311.

 By Katie McFadden