2003-07-25 / Community

Mosquitoes Once Again Issue In Arverne

By Tommy Hallissey
Mosquitoes Once Again Issue In Arverne By Tommy Hallissey

Barbara Hillary, in front of the tent she erected on her Arverne property to protect herself and her family from mosquitoes.Barbara Hillary, in front of the tent she erected on her Arverne property to protect herself and her family from mosquitoes.

In anticipation of the yearly late-summer onslaught of mosquitoes, the newly formed Arverne Action Committee, under the auspices of Barbara Hillary, this spring initiated a letter writing campaign to politicians from Meeks to Schumer, as their first step in attempting to abate the insect infestation before it makes life unbearable in Arverne.

Hillary, President of the Arverne Action Committee, mailed letters to Councilman James Sanders, Representative Greg Meeks, State Senator Malcolm Smith, Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Chuck Schumer and Assemblywoman Michelle Titus asking them to respond to the yearly mosquito problem. "The Arverne Action Committee would deeply appreciate your detailed plans regarding the mosquito problem," said Hillary in a March 23 letter. The 72-year-old community activist hoped to address the impending problem before it was too late. "Historically people wait till they’ve been eaten alive to jump up and down about it," said Hillary.

Only Titus responded to the letters from the A.A.C. and she offered a nondescript plan for dealing with the insects. "I am deeply concerned about the mosquito problem in Arverne … Because of the potential dangers of the mosquito problem my office will aggressively pursue rectifying this situation," said Titus in a letter mailed to Hillary.

Traditionally, late July through the end of August has seen the highest level of mosquito infestation. "I can’t sit on the outside on a sunny breezy day," said Lee Battles. "I got to fight the mosquitoes." As the "dog days" of August are fast approaching, neither the politicians nor the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene have made clear how the mosquitoes will be dealt with this year. "As of yet we have no plans of spraying in Rockaway," said a source at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. So far this year, Staten Island has been sprayed twice.

Mosquito infestation in Arverne is not a new issue; it has become a cyclical problem. "This is nothing new," said Hillary. "You don’t have to be an Oxford fellow to know the mosquito problem has been reoccurring for the last 20 years." In fact, the late-summer mosquitoes prompted Hillary to purchase a screen-tent for her backyard, so she could spend time outside in the late summer.

On Tuesday night the five-month-old Arverne Action Committee held a meeting at the Battalion Pentecostal Church to address the mosquito problem among other things. State Senator Malcolm Smith, as well as, officers of the 100 Precinct were on hand to express their concern for community problems that ranged from motorized scooters to racial profiling and back to topic of the evening – mosquitoes. A petition was passed around to urge local politicians to take immediate action on the mosquito problem. Roughly 50 people signed the petition, according to Hillary. "Nothing has been nailed down tonight," said Hillary. But she added optimistically, "We’re going to accelerate the process." The Arverne Action Committee said that they advocate a method for controlling mosquitoes that is both effective and has little environmental impact.

High on the AAC’s list of priorities was holding politician’s accountable to the community. "We hold our elected officials highly accountable," said Hillary. "We measure success by results." It was clear that many of those at Tuesday night’s meeting still felt slighted by their elected officials. "We’re going to remember this at election time," said Battles.

The potentially deadly West Nile virus has heightened concerns nation-wide over mosquitoes in recent years. Though Gaska deemed West Nile virus, "always a concern", he added that the virus generally breeds in fresh water. "Our biggest problem [in Rockaway] is salt-water mosquitoes." Last year, 284 people in New York City were infected with West Nile virus; none of those cases were in Rockaway, according to Councilman

James Sanders.

As the Arverne Action Committee places mosquito control at the top of their agenda, local politicians have begun to respond to the cyclical problem. "Southeast Queens and especially the Rockaways are the ground zero in our on mosquitoes," said Councilman Sanders. "As the Councilperson of this district, I insist that the City act responsibly and act now."

Though much of Arverne is up in arms over mosquitoes, it seems that not all of Rockaway shares their concern. "We’re not getting a lot of calls," said Jonathan Gaska, Community Board 14. "It’s not that bad yet."

Thus far, the number of mosquitoes in Arverne is relatively low. This is due, in part, to the extraordinarily cold spring, which delayed the hatching period for mosquitoes. As a result, the number of mosquitoes is roughly a month behind where it was in previous years, according to Gaska. Some fear the unusually heavy rains in May and June may produce a greater crop of mosquitoes. "I anticipate it to be bad in August and September," said Gaska. "It could be a doozy."

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