The Tragedy of Spraying Pesticides Over 843-acre Central Park

Imagine. We have a glorious 843-acre park – Central Park – in the middle of the city, lush with greenery, bats, birds, bees, dragonflies, raccoons, geese, many types of insects, amounting to an ecosystem that we can only begin to understand or relate to.

We have a city Health Department so invested in its pesticide spray program 23 years since it first began in 1999 under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani that it inexplicably believes spraying this lush, expansive area is going to contain the West Nile Virus and not impact any other entities. Only two people this year in a city of eight million-plus have contracted WNV. The risk of contracting WNV has always been known to be low. Yet the mass spraying of pesticides is known to be harmful.

The city this evening (9/15) is spraying pesticides on the entire Upper West Side, all of Central Park, part of the Upper East Side and neighborhoods in The Bronx. This is preceded by a dozen-plus spraying “events” in all the other boroughs this summer – Staten Island, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx.

Let’s be clear that pesticides kill, pesticides harm, pesticides are not benign.

When reached out to by WSP Blog, the NYC Department of Health press office responded to questions about the Central Park spraying:

“We have found multiple locations within the park with mosquitoes that have tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV.) In order to prevent people getting WNV, we will be spraying in the Park by truck and nearby neighborhoods. Our spray times within the park will be occurring in the early morning hours and we have posted notices at different places within the park to let people know that spraying will occur.”

WSP Blog reached out to Washington, D.C.-based Beyond Pesticides, an organization which has widely raised awareness around the harm of pesticides. Executive Director Jay Feldman responded:

Broadscale spraying of synthetic nerve poisons is irresponsible pest management, both for people and wildlife, given the indiscriminate exposure that it causes to the environment. Regardless of the time of application, and given residual chemical that can remain in the environment after application, studies raise concerns about adverse effects in pollinators, birds, fish, and trophic cascades and harm to aquatic systems. Beyond the harm associated with the chemical’s use, the bottom line is that indiscriminate spraying of pesticides is not an effective method for killing mosquitoes. Instead, the city should focus on supporting wildlife that eat mosquitoes and source reduction at mosquito breeding sites.”

The No Spray Coalition, based in NYC, has been working to stop the spraying of pesticides in New York City since it began under Mayor Giuliani. The Coalition has met with the city over the years; the city has amended some aspects of the spray program due to its influence, also due to a court case brought by the organization against the city. The city reached a settlement and at the time admitted to problems with the pesticides being sprayed.

Mitchel Cohen of the No Spray Coalition stated:

“With every change of administration — and of elements within each administration which change frequently — the governmental bodies repeat the same excuses and rationalizations for poisoning the people of New York and its wildlife and pets, with toxic pesticide spray to ostensibly kill mosquitoes said to be carrying West Nile Virus. West Nile affects very few people. For those it does, the illness can be very serious — BUT, is the way to protect by massive and indiscriminate spraying that poisons children, especially, and the elderly? No. There are other ways to address this situation but the City once again refuses to learn the lessons of its predecessors.

When the No Spray Coalition reached a settlement with NYC in Court, the incoming officials admitted that the pesticides:

  • may remain in the environment beyond their intended purpose
  • cause adverse health effects
  • kill mosquitoes’ natural predators (such as dragonflies, bats, frogs and birds)
  • increase mosquitoes’ resistance to the sprays, and
  • are not approved for direct application to waterways

Yet newer administrations have acted as though that never happened, that the City never lost that federal case and agreed to the above areas of settlement. This to me is an intentional “loss” of institutional memory when it is inconvenient to remember. Even with the passage of the new anti-pesticide law in 2020, the lunatics running the City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (whatever that means) take the worst possible approach to dealing with this issue, spraying cancer causing and endocrine disrupting poisons on the entire population and wildlife.

So when does it end? And when do sane voices prevail?


ALL of Central Park, Upper West Side, Manhattan, Bronx to be sprayed with toxic pesticides Thursday, September 15th via No Spray Coalition

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