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Gennaro urges city to stop mosquito problem

Residents say the mosquito problem in Jamaica Estates and the Pomonok Houses in Fresh Meadows has gotten so bad that they can no longer use their yards or even step outside without getting eaten alive by the pesky pests.

The situation is so out of hand that area politicians rallied Friday to call on the city to spray the areas to kill the insects and bring some relief to welt-covered residents.

The issue is one of more than just annoyance, it is one of safety, as the city Department of Health has detected the West Nile virus in mosquito pools in the area, although no cases have struck humans so far this year, according to the DOH.

Complicating the situation is the fact that these neighborhoods are under assault not by garden-variety skeeters, but by the yellow-and-black Asian Tiger mosquito, a resilient, non-native, invasive breed that bites 24 hours a day and is adept at carrying and transmitting West Nile.

City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), state Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck) and Assembly candidate Michael Simanowitz gathered on Midland Parkway between Hillside Avenue and Wexford Terrace in Jamaica Estates Friday and called on the city to do something about the bug epidemic.

“The infestation has advanced to a point where it is essentially impossible to be outside and not get bitten,” Gennaro said. “Now that West Nile has conclusively been found in Jamaica Estates and Pomonok, it is absolutely imperative that the Health Department commence spraying in these communities — both of which have large numbers of senior citizens — to provide protection from Asian Tiger mosquitoes, which pose a clear and present health threat to the residents of these communities.”

Gennaro was asked by the DOH to inform residents about the need to use spray and other means to protect themselves from the bugs, but he said he does not believe such a regime of suggestion will be enough to fight the scourge of the Asian Tiger and the health risks it presents. The department has said it is restricting its anti-mosquito activities to surveillance and larviciding activities, but it will not spray the neighborhood.

Gennaro said spraying is essential to ensure everyone is protected, so he sent a letter Monday to city Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley, imploring him to change tack and spray in Pomonok and Jamaica Estates.

“The Health Department has told me that I should tell my constituents to use chemicals to prevent themselves from being bitten,” Gennaro said Monday. “Not everyone is going to get that message or go out and get the bug spray and actually put it on, so the department needs to do spraying to ensure that everyone is protected from the mosquitoes.”

Martha Taylor, a Jamaica Estates district leader and member of Community Board 8, said at the Friday event that she has been unable to spend as much time in her garden as she would like to because of the mosquito infestation.

“I may be as corny as Kansas in August, but my weeds are as high as an elephant’s eye and it looks like they’re climbing right up to the sky,” she said. “One of the pleasures of home ownership for me has always been my garden. I particularly enjoy the summer, when I can put a little time in the yard. This summer I haven’t been able to step out of my kitchen door without being attacked by swarms of mosquitoes. We in Jamaica Estates and the surrounding communities need relief.”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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