Pesky mosquitoes are a problem throughout the city, but residents of some neighborhoods are swatting them away at alarming levels, according to 311 complaints. And with Zika a major concern, mosquito control is as important as ever.
There have been at least 611 complaints of mosquitoes so far since the complaint category was introduced on May 31.
And the largest number of gripes have come from Arverne, Queens, where there were 46 calls to the city. But that number, Council member Donovan Richards Jr. said, is much lower than reality.
“We have the bay and the ocean, so we’re right in between both,” he said. “For every day people who want to sit in their backyard or just walk to school or walk to work … you are eaten alive out there.”
Richards Jr. said Arverne is “held captive” by the salt marsh mosquito, which he called a “nuisance” bug. But the Health Department, he said, has been spraying more this year than past years.
“It’s always been bad. Even when it’s better its bad,” he added. “We’ve encouraged our constituents to call 311. It’s a health hazard.”
On Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city has invested $21 million over three years for mosquito surveillance and control. The city is also testing pregnant women — 3,400 of which have been tested already.
But de Blasio also called on Congress to approve $1.9 billion in emergency funding, a request that President Barack Obama has made previously and has been stalled.
Public Advocate Letitia James on Wednesday recommended the state increase the number of Zika protection kits to low-income women, that contain educational materials as well as insect repellent and condoms. She also advocated for increasing awareness at city airports to help combat the potential spread of the virus.
For their part, a Health Department spokesman noted the number of complaints are relatively small compared to other categories.
“The City has historically been very successful at controlling mosquito populations and keeping New Yorkers safe from mosquito-borne diseases,” the spokesman said in an email. “In light of the Zika outbreak in Latin America and the Caribbean, this summer the City implemented its most aggressive mosquito control program ever — targeting mosquitoes that carry West Nile and those that could potentially carry the Zika virus. We have already conducted twice as many mosquito control treatments to date compared to this time last year.”
The Health Department has sprayed areas in Queens, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Staten Island so far this year, according to the agency. Several more neighborhoods in Queens and a few in Manhattan were scheduled for Wednesday.
“We are monitoring complaints of mosquito activity, and continue to ask New Yorkers to report persistent standing water to 311,” he added.
There have been no human cases of West Nile virus in the city this summer, and the Zika virus has not been found in any mosquitoes in the city, he said.
In Forest Hills, there have been 29 complaints so far, the second most in the city. The neighborhood sits next to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, which has two different lakes.
“I think people are scared. When they see standing water, they’re afraid,” said Council member Karen Koslowitz, whose district includes Forest Hills. She said her office hasn’t received many complaints, but understands the fear: “I think its because of Zika.
“I think they should be spraying the whole borough,” she added.