As city health inspectors uncover evidence of mosquitoes carrying the West Nile Virus in Brooklyn, locals claim that Parks Department officials have allowed the borough’s biggest green space to devolve into a breeding ground for the noxious pests, which spawn in standing pools of water that agency honchos claim are too expensive to fix.
“It’s disgusting,” said Elizabeth Morrissey, a Stuart Street resident living across the street from Marine Park. “My dog was attacked by mosquitoes yesterday — attacked!”
Morrissey complained of two large ponds in particular, both located within the northwestern corner of Marine Park near the local middle school, IS 278. One is a shallow pit at the playground bordering Fillmore Avenue, where rainwater collects in a stagnant pool, inevitably becoming filthy with trash, and infested with swarms of hungry mosquitoes, she said.
“Kids are walking through it. There’s garbage in it. It’s not right!” said Morrissey.
The other pool is located near a baseball diamond on the other side of Marine Park’s oval cycling and running path, and is produced by a constantly leaking water fountain that’s inundated the nearby bike lane, along with complicating the task of getting a drink of water, according to another longtime local.
“You can’t even use the fountain, because you’d be standing in a puddle,” said Stan Kaplan, a member of the Marine Park Civic Association, as well as various other local civic groups.
Morrissey and Kaplan raised the perennial ponding issue following a July 24 Department of Health announcement that agents had detected mosquitoes carrying the West Nile Virus — a potentially fatal disease that causes inflammation of the brain and spinal cord — in nearby East New York, along with several other outer borough neighborhoods.
In a bid to control the spread of the disease, the Health Department has sprayed Marine Park with larvicide — a pesticide that kills mosquito larvae before they can hatch — on several occasions between June 20 and July 19, but city Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot warned locals that the best way to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses is to eliminate standing pools of water.
“We also encourage everyone to remove any standing water that may harbor mosquitoes or call 311 for standing water they cannot manage themselves.”
At a Marine Park community meeting in April, however, Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Martin Maher quashed any notions that the issue would be addressed quickly, quoting a multimillion dollar price tag for the infrastructure required to permanently fix the park’s pool problems, according to one civic leader in attendance.
“He put the price tag at $11 million for all new drainage, new water pipes, all sorts of things,” said Ed Jowarski, co-president of the Madison-Marine Homecrest Civic Association.
Jowarksi, Morrissey, and Kaplan all scoffed at the Parks official’s eight-figure quote, claiming that both the pit and the fountain pools could be addressed by relatively cheap Band-Aid fixes.
In the case of the pit, Morrissey suggested digging a dry well — a simple, underground structure that uses gravity and porous material to drain water.
As to the fountain, Kaplan suggested the simple remedy of turning it off.
A Parks Department spokeswoman blamed the ponding on “generous rainfall” and drainage issues in the park, and claimed workers have been busy sweeping and pumping large puddles regularly.
And the leaking water fountain won’t be fixed anytime soon, according to the spokeswoman, who said it could be weeks before a repairman is sent out.
– Additional reporting by Chandler Kidd