This year's mild winter could come back to bite New Yorkers this spring and summer – literally.
“Given the winter we've had, which has been warm and rainy – unusually so – that's certainly favored mosquito survival,” said Stephen Morse, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. “Now, with the warm and rainy weather we have, naturally, you'd expect to see an increase in mosquito breeding.”
But the cooler weather of the last couple of weeks has helped keep mosquitoes in check – for now.
“If the temperature is high, then it’s favoring mosquito breeding, said Dr. Waheed Bajwa, executive director of the Office of Vector Surveillance and Control within the city’s Department of Health. “So far this year, we’ve observed actually a somewhat lower mosquito activity than the same time last year, but we cannot predict the future.”
The Upper West Side, in particular, has been battling a “massive attack” of mosquitoes, according to Linda B. Rosenthal, who represents the area and parts of Hell’s Kitchen in the New York State Assembly.
She says her district, especially around 84th Street, has been inundated with mosquitoes for the last two years, even through the winter.
“During the winter months, when one doesn’t expect to have mosquitoes buzzing around day and night, they had been attacked by mosquitoes every single day, every single night,” said Rosenthal, noting that some of her constituents had even installed mosquito netting. “They were just at their wits end because the city did not take their complaints seriously.”
This Upper West Side scourge prompted Rosenthal to hold a town hall meeting so residents could learn what the city was doing to deal with the mosquito infestation.
Rosenthal is now working with various city agencies to try to tackle the problem. She’s trying to get 311 to take mosquito complaints, which she said they currently only do between April and August and if there’s standing water. In fact, city residents can get a citation if they have standing water on their property, as the New York Times reported.
“I believe that [mosquitoes are a problem] throughout the city, but I also believe that West 84th Street is its own ecosystem and its own particular problem,” Rosenthal said.
Dr. Bajwa concurs, adding that the UWS mosquitoes are breeding in the sewer system. His agency is working with other departments to flush the sewers.
If you want to read more about the possibility of NYC’s worse mosquito summer ever, New York magazine did an in-depth article on the subject.