2011-08-05 / Top Stories

Mosquito Problem Brings DOH Rep To Rockaway

By Miriam Rosenberg


The Department of Health’s Mario Merlino, left, explains the agency’s mosquito policy as Councilman James Sanders’ chief of staff, Donovan Richards, and the councilman’s point man on the problem, Philip Goldfeder, look on. The Department of Health’s Mario Merlino, left, explains the agency’s mosquito policy as Councilman James Sanders’ chief of staff, Donovan Richards, and the councilman’s point man on the problem, Philip Goldfeder, look on. Some residents are calling the problem the worst they have seen. With the city Department of Health (DOH) failing, during a round of spraying last month, to include some of the worst affected areas of the Rockaways, representatives from the department addressed the community about the never-ending mosquito problem on the peninsula last week at the Macedonia Baptist Church.

Following the release last month of a spraying schedule that did not include such areas as Arverne, Edgemere and Bayswater, Councilman James Sanders Jr. called for the DOH “to seriously look into the guidelines being used by the Health Department to determine when and where they will spray for mosquitoes. They tell us that they do not spray for mere ‘nuisance’ issues, and will only actively spray for mosquitoes once their presence becomes a danger. Well as a resident of the Rockaways, I’m here to assure the Health Department, the mere presence of mosquitoes is a danger.”


A mother holds her child who had to be treated for deep mosquito bites. A mother holds her child who had to be treated for deep mosquito bites. The August 4 meeting, hosted by Sanders and his chief of staff, Donovan Richards, followed along the lines of last year’s community meeting with the DOH.

Mario Merlino, the assistant commissioner for the Office of Vector Pest Control, explained the mosquito policy of his office. The DOH traps and tests mosquitoes. If it finds any evidence of West Nile Virus spraying is then scheduled.

“It’s not that we don’t want to do nuisance spraying ... ,” said Merlino. “It’s dependent on the season and what the picture of West Nile looks like.”

In 2001 the DOH issued a report that called for more nuisance spraying in the Rockaways.

“Two thousand and one was a different universe when it came to funding,” said Merlino. “It’s not a lack of wanting to do it and that we don’t believe it’s a problem … it’s the cuts in government spending that’s a big obstacle.”

Larvicide, which is used to prevent mosquitoes from hatching, can be distributed from the air and by applying it to catch basins in the city. All catch basins in the city are treated four times a year. Adulticide spraying is done to kill adult mosquitoes after evidence of West Nile Virus.

One resident told Merlino, “Your plan is reactive not proactive …. There’s no coordinated planning process to address the issue before it happens.”

Al Moore of Community Board 14 said, “I don’t believe the city gives a damn. You have one million trees going in, but these mosquitoes are not our friends and they ain’t our family.”

Other residents talked about infections from mosquito bites on themselves and their children. One father said the problem is so bad his son cannot go outside to play.

Residents were urged to call 311 with complaints and to document visits to hospitals.

In response to the outrage, the DOH has scheduled a spraying for this Thursday, August 4 for areas including Bayswater, Arverne and Edgemere.

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