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Team effort to rescue kitten from storm drain at Hauppauge office building

The Smithtown News - August 3, 2023

Thanks to the perseverance of a group of employees at 150 Motor Parkway in Hauppauge, the life of a small kitten has been spared.

Douglas Kronenberg, an investigator’ for the New York State Supreme Court Attorney Grievance Committee and a member of the St. James Fire Department, arrived at his office on the morning of July 18. When he got out of his car he heard a crying sound, which he couldn’t immediately identify. He walked to a line of trees and the sound intensified until he realized it was coming from the storm drain. As he honed in on the sound, he determined it was a kitten stuck in the drain.

Upon a closer look, he saw water in the storm drain and realized the kitten had worked its way out of the storm drain and into the pipe connecting it to a second storm drain. Mr. Kronenberg went into the building and told security what he saw. The building is owned and operated by Damianos Realty Group and building superintendent Anthony Vitale and building manager John Coffey responded. They went out and inspected the storm drain but the kitten had stopped meowing. Mr. Kronenberg went out during his lunch break and he heard the kitten again. “I heard it really loud and it seemed to be panicking even more,” he said This time, Mr. Vitale also heard the kitten in the drain.

A rain storm was fast approaching so they decided to try to rescue the kitten. After work, Mr. Kronenberg was scheduled to attend a fire department gas emergency drill training in Yaphank, so he had his firefighting gear with him. He put it on and climbed down into the storm drain as it began raining. With a flashlight, he looked into the pipe and for the first time spotted the kitten.

Mr. Kronenberg estimated the pipe between the two drains to be about 35 feet. When the kitten saw him, it headed in the opposite direction and he couldn’t reach it. He decided to go to the other drain to try coax it out. He said Mr. Vitale is a verry strong man and together they were able to lift the sewer drain can and Mr. Kronenberg went into that one but this time the kitten again went in the opposite direction. “He wouldn’t come to me. He was scared,” he said.

Mr. Vitale then got a blower and tried to send the kitten in the direction toward Mr. Kronenberg. The kitten, though, climbed up onto some debris between two drains and there was no way to reach it. The police came and gave him and animal rescue pole with a noose on the end but it wasn’t long enough. It continued to rain, the police got called to another incident, Mr. Kronenberg, Mr. Vitale and Mr. Coffey worked together to try to get the kitten but to no avail. They gave up for the evening. Mr. Kronenberg said he couldn’t sleep thinking about the failed rescue effort and tried to think of a way to get the kitten the next day. “We had to come up with an idea to get the kitten to go to one end of the pipe and one end only.” he said. His girlfriend, Carmel O’Hanlon, offered a suggestion, join together two collapsible poles used to hold up a tent, which she had. When Mt. Kronenberg arrived the next morning, Mr. Coffey and Mr. Vitale were already there contemplating their predicament, the kitten still making noise in the drain.

Mr. Kronenberg began to assembled his tent pole contraption and Mr. Vitale began feeding it into the drain pipe. He also brought a fishing net with him, and Mr. Vitale had also brought with him a gripper used by workers to pick up litter on the side of the highway. Also, with them this time, was a paralegal from one of one of the offices – Mr. Kronenberg only goth her first name as Mary – who provided terrific cat meow cries. “It was a team effort,” he said.

He made the makeshift pole about 35 feet long and began feeding it into the pipe and he was gearing up to guide it through. As he began getting geared up to go back into the drain, the cat calls of the paralegal attracted the kitten to the mouth of the pipe, at which point Mr. Vitale and Mr. Coffey were able to reach into the drain and tap the kitten with the litter grabber into the fishing net and pull it to safety.

Mr. Kronenberg took the kitten home where Ms. O’Hanlon, who is good with cats and has cared for many, nursed it to health. They named the kitten Stormy, after the storm drain, he had been rescued from.

“Now he is thriving and he is a great cat. We are going to try to place him in a good home, because he is domesticated now. He’s a good cat,” Mr. Kronenberg said. “They say that they have nine lives, so he has eight left.”

He and Ms. O’Hanlon have dogs so Mr. Kronenberg said it would not be fair to Stormy for them to keep him so they are going to find someone else to take him in.

“I think it was a very rewarding experience, especially since the mission at the end was successful,” Mr. Kronenberg said, adding that between the first day and second day of the rescue he was confident that he was going to be able to rescue the kitten. He said Mr. Vitale and Mary did a terrific job luring the kitten to the drain and Mr. Coffey did a great job getting the kitten into the fishing net.

“It was a team effort because we cared.” Mr. Kronenberg said. “It counts as a life and if you can lend a helping hand you do so, especially if you have been an volunteer for 23 years and I have been.”

By David Ambro



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