Since we broke the story about a nasty breed of mosquitoes attacking residents on West 84th Street between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive, much has happened: CBS News broadcast the story on the evening news, it got picked up by powerful right-wing blogger Matt Drudge, Assemblyman Linda Rosenthal got on the case, and the city finally got proactive about dealing with it.
To recap, residents on 84th Street have been dealing with a horrifying mosquito infestation for more than a year that has left some with massive welts, and sent at least one child to the hospital. It turns out the mosquitoes (officially called Culex pipiens molestus) are from a particularly pernicious bloodline — their ancestors picked on Londoners during World War II Blitz, and they are much hardier than traditional mosquitoes. This summer, a sinkhole in the street appears to have made the mosquito problem much worse. Some residents have been sleeping under mosquito netting to protect themselves.
Residents have been asking the city for help eradicating the pests, but the NYC Health Department told West Side Rag reporter Leonora Desar that it couldn’t do much because these mosquitoes didn’t appear to be carrying West Nile Virus.
But the media attention since our story and political pressure from Rosenthal has apparently spurred more action.
Rosenthal wrote in a recent letter that the mosquitoes appear to be emerging from holes in the street that emerged after Con Edison did excavation work that caused the street to collapse. The sewer and water lines appear to be intact, but the excavation work damaged the street so badly that the holes have persisted, giving the bloodthirsty underground mosquitoes access to the street, Rosenthal said. But even after asking the DOT to do work on the street, there was no action. So she wrote to the Department of Transportation demanding action:
“As of the writing of this letter, however, no repairs have been initiated. The constituent has made clear that he and his neighbors have faced nearly constant threat from mosquitoes, which persists even into the winter months; it is my understanding that some residents have even been forced to sleep under mosquito netting to protect themselves. While I know that structural issues such as these require major repair, this is not an issue that can or should wait.”
Now it looks like the city has begun to take action.
The health department told us in an email that the city is now on the case: “The Health Department inspected 327 West 84 Street and the surrounding area and applied larvicide to all known mosquito habitats in the area. In addition, we are working with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Con Edison to remedy the problem as this mosquito species breeds underground. DEP cleaned all catch basins in the neighborhood of 327 West 84 Street and Con Ed repaired a hole at a construction site located at 327 West 84 Street.”
And apparently, the Department of Transportation is now repairing the sinkhole that developed when the street caved in. West Side Rag reader Howard Freeman sent in the above picture showing signs for DOT work (he also sent in the picture of the hole at left from which swarms of mosquitoes have emerged). The agency hasn’t gotten back to us about the nature of the work, but local resident Pauline Galiana told us that the DOT is planning to repair the hole: “The DOT came to our street for the first time Friday night… Tomorrow the DOT is coming to fix the cave in,” she wrote in emails to us.
But…it appears that the mosquitoes may have set up shop in other parts of the neighborhood. Per Rosenthal’s staff:”In addition, we have now received dozens of phone calls and emails from people living all along the UWS who are experiencing similar problems, which of course, is very concerning.”
We’ve heard similar stories from commenters on our first story.
So, have you been itching a lot lately? Let us know!
The West 84th Street “Mosquito Squad” has also come out with a new flyer, a link to which we’ve posted below.
— with extensive reporting by Leonora Desar