HAMILTON HEIGHTS — Stagnant ponds of dirty rainwater and runoff from the Henry Hudson Parkway have become a breeding ground for mosquitos that pose a health hazard along Riverside Drive, according residents and local officials.
While the state Parks Office and the DEP announced a $60,000 commitment to exterminate the bugs with pesticides, residents, state and city agencies agree the problem won't go away until money is available to filling the area where pools form.
Residents who live along Riverside Drive between West 133rd and 145th streets near the overpass where the pools collect said the bugs are so bad they avoid opening their windows at dusk, when mosquitos are most active.
“My daughter goes around spraying [bug repellent] every time she visits,” said Rosie Eugine, who lives on 139th Street, a few blocks away from where the ponds are near Riverbank State Park and the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant.
The bugs are so bad that security guards at the park are equipped with anti-mosquito bracelets and bug spray, said a guard stationed at the parking lot who declined to give his name.
The problem stems from rainwater and runoff from the Henry Hudson Parkway that dumps water onto the unpaved road that has no drainage system. The ponds stay around for days after it rains, attracting mosquitos to the area.
In July, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer stepped in and asked state and local environmental agencies to do something about the problem.
“Clearly, standing water and mosquitos constitute health hazards for the community," Brewer wrote in a letter to five different agencies, including the state Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation and the city Department of Environmental Protection.
She reminded them that a city Department of Health report found that the neighborhood had a severe mosquito infestation in 2013 and cases of West Nile Virus last summer.
A month later, the DEP to allocated $60,000 for 20 weeks of spraying to kill larvae and adult mosquitos, first deputy commissioner Steven Lawitts wrote in a letter to Brewer.
Neighbors said the they've already seen a difference from the pesticide.
“Earlier in the summer it was real bad,” Violet Webb of West 138th Street said. She said she still did not open her windows for fear of mosquitos. “The spraying has helped.”
Still, the DEP, which controls the access road, does not have enough funds to repair the potholes because other work has taken priority, according to the agency.
While the extermination efforts have kept the mosquitos at bay, residents don’t think it is a long-term solution.
If the road and parking lot are left unpaved and without a drainage system, the mosquitos will return next year, said Christine Abate, who lives on West 133rd Street.