Hazardous Pesticide Spraying in Prospect Park Tonight

Prospect Park Lady Bug - Dead Soon?

After first saying that pesticide spraying would not occur in Prospect Park because of the Celebrate Brooklyn concerts – something that raised a few eyebrows (either something is urgent, or it is not) – the New York City Department of Health backtracked and said pesticide spraying will occur tonight after midnight in the Park.

Prospect Park is a 585 acre park with a 60 acre lake. There are dragonflies and bats — both natural predators of the mosquito, as well as butterflies, ladybugs, bees — all are killed by the pesticide spraying. In addition, people walking through the park tomorrow morning will be breathing in fresh pesticide spray which has known and detrimental health effects. People will be walking their dogs which are close to the ground and they will breathe in and walk through the harmful pyrethroid pesticide, Anvil 10+10.

A few years ago, I flyered Prospect park-goers with literature about the health effects of the pesticides and a woman stopped to tell me, that, after walking through the park the morning after it had been sprayed, she encountered numerous lady bugs on the ground dying.

This is our eco-system — we are charged with protecting it; not killing it.

You have a greater chance of being hit by lightning than getting the West Nile virus. If someone did get West Nile, typically, they would not know it or might experience a slight cold.

The city is also spraying other sections of Brooklyn and Queens. Originally the spraying was to take place Wednesday, August 3rd but was delayed due to rain.

See further information from the No Spray Coalition, an organization I work with —


The City has announced it will spray dangerous pesticides in crowded residential areas in Brooklyn and Queens on Thursday, August 4th, 2011.

The No Spray Coalition is appalled by Mayor Bloomberg’s and the City’s Department of Health decision to renew the mass-spraying — no legitimate reasons given.

We also condemn the New York City government’s advice to residents and visitors that they personally use insect repellants containing DEET on themselves and their children. DEET is especially dangerous for children and should NEVER be used; it is associated with numerous infant deaths. The City knows this; we negotiated an agreement with the City last year that they wouldn’t recommend DEET.

Furthermore, this year’s spray of choice — Anvil 10+10 — is listed in Local Law 37 (2005 update, see page 1, paragraph 4, discussion of table 2) that states that for piperonyl butoxide and MGK-264 contained as synergists in Anvil 10 + 10, that:

both of these chemicals are classified as possible human carcinogens by the EPA Office of Pesticide Programs. Only 94 products contain pyrethrins without other carcinogen ingredients. Therefore, most products containing pyrethrins continue to be prohibited under LL37 even if the reference to the EPA list was updated.

Local Law 37 prohibits the use of pesticides by NYC in public places if it contains PBO and/or MGK-264. Why are they violating their own law?

The No Spray Coalition is also deeply troubled not only by NYC’s reckless spraying of Anvil 10 + 10 to kill mosquitoes, but for the City’s very short notice — around 24 hours, that’s it!

“After years of litigation to stop this reckless spraying of pesticides which has contributed to skyrocketing increases in cancer and asthma, and now the collapse of bee colonies in the New York area, I am outraged that the Bloomberg Administration is renewing its mindless criminal poisoning of the people and environment of our City,” said Howard Brandstein, coordinator of SOS-FOOD, NY State Against Genetic Engineering, and a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit brought seven years ago by the No Spray Coalition and other organizations against Rudolph Giuliani and the New York City government.

That lawsuit ended in April 2007, when NYC signed a settlement agreement acknowledging, among other stipulations, that pesticides:
– may remain in the environment beyond their intended purpose
– cause adverse health effects
– kill mosquitoes’ natural predators (such as dragonflies)
– increase mosquitoes’ resistance to the sprays, and
– are not presently approved for direct application to waterways.

The Department of Health contravenes that settlement by now stating that there are no significant risks of adverse impact to human health associated with the proper use of this product. “That is simply a lie,” said No Spray Coalition coordinator Mitchel Cohen. In fact, the spraying puts many New York City residents and visitors at grave risk.

“These kind of ignorant and lying politicians and bureaucrats apparently have no problem destroying our health in order to ‘save’ us from the so-called West Nile virus,” Howard Brandstein added. “Clearly, the spraying jeopardizes a thousand times more people than the disease.”

The pesticide the City is spraying — “Anvil 10 + 10” — belongs to a class of adulticides known as pyrethroids, which are endocrine disruptors. They mimic hormones such as estrogen, and may cause breast cancer in women and drastically lower sperm counts in men. Pyrethroids have also been associated with prostate cancer, miscarriages and preterm delivery, asthma, toxicity to many vital organs including the nervous system, liver, kidneys and the gastro-intestinal tract, skin rashes, itching and blisters, and nausea and vomiting.

Anvil contains the cancer-causing chemical piperonyl butoxide, which the Environmental Protection Agency lists as a suspected carcinogen. It also contains Sumithrin — a synthetic toxin, made in the laboratory — as well as benzene-related chemicals (which the label calls “inert ingredients.”) (more…)

NYC Parks Commissioner Benepe responds to NY Times’ Op-Ed on Ridgewood Reservoir

You really have to read between the lines when New York City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe speaks about plans he wishes to implement in our city parks.

Last week, the New York Times printed Commissioner Benepe’s letter in response to the excellent Op-Ed that Robert Kennedy Jr. and NYC Comptroller William Thompson Jr. wrote defending the natural beauty of Ridgewood Reservoir which lies on the Queens-Brooklyn border.

Ridgewood Reservoir, at one time the source of the water supply for the City of Brooklyn, had been abandoned. Natural vegetation arose in the spot and it has become a wildlife habitat. It abuts Highland Park and the two are considered aligned. Commissioner Benepe wishes to destroy the natural habitat that has come to life there, tear down and pave over a large swath, and replace it with landscaped areas and artificial turf fields.

Printed below is Commissioner Benepe’s letter and some points in response. Note: Commissioner Benepe’s method is typically not to respond to the main criticisms but to reiterate his selling points. Save Ridgewood Reservoir had some good counterpoints to his letter also which I’ve interspersed below.

  • To the Editor:
  • One of the key goals of PlaNYC, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s far-reaching plan to fight global warming and create a more livable city, is to ensure that every New Yorker lives within a 10-minute walk of a park or open space.

Counterpoint: Parks Department cuts down thousands of City’s Mature Trees, Vegetation

If this was accurate, then why has the New York City Parks Department, under Commissioner Benepe and Mayor Bloomberg, not preserved the mature trees in city parks? Instead, as they plan with Ridgewood Reservoir, they have been cutting down significant numbers (thousands) of mature trees in parks in the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens solely because they are in the way of their redesign plans.

Save Ridgewood Reservoir commented: A study showed the cooling effect of trees and other vegetation, an effect that would be severely diminished if Commissioner Benepe cut down the trees and other plants within any of the reservoir’s basins. In fact, an association of manufacturers of artificial recreational surfaces acknowledges that artificial turf surface temperatures can be as much as 30 degrees hotter than natural turf. In his haste to replace the city park’s natural surface fields with artificial material, Commissioner Benepe is clearly working against his boss’s stated goal.

  • Highland Park in Queens is one of eight large underdeveloped parks where we are expanding access to help achieve this goal.

Counterpoint: Parks are not “underdeveloped” but are undermaintained

The New York City Parks Department’s has a pattern: Forego necessary repairs and maintenance within a city park for a long period of time. The community inevitably becomes desperate for something to be done. At that point, the Parks Department swoops in with a plan for a total (typically unwelcome) redesign of that park. (See: Washington Square Park.)

For an underfunded City Agency, the Parks Department ought to focus on maintenance and repair instead of elaborate reconstructions. However, that’s not quite as splashy.

As Save Ridgewood Reservoir stated, “Highland Park is not underdeveloped, it’s under maintained. … Instead of fixing the obvious problems and improving an existing park, the city would rather spend $40 million on creating another park.

  • As with all of these projects, the city holds listening sessions with community residents to incorporate their input into the design.

Counterpoint: City’s “listening sessions” do not result in “input” from community being incorporated into design

Anyone who has experienced a Parks Department “listening session” soon realizes that the Parks Department “listening sessions” are held at the point that the Parks Department has already conjured up and blueprinted their plans.

  • Many options have been discussed, including one with athletic fields in a small area of the 50-acre Ridgewood Reservoir, an area that is composed primarily of invasive trees and vines that threaten the park’s ecological balance.

Counterpoint: Parks’ “ecological balances” threatened by NYC Parks Department

Save Ridgewood Reservoir rebuts this: “Invasive species are in every park in NYC and, in some parks, are controlled by long-term management plans. I guess that concept hasn’t occurred to the commissioner. The only thing that threatens this ‘park’s ecological balance’ is the removal of trees so that artificial turf fields can be installed.”

  • As we begin the design process, we look forward to continued collaboration with the community and with all interested New Yorkers in order to build the best possible park.
  • Adrian Benepe, Commissioner, Department of Parks and Recreation
    New York

Counterpoint: Parks Department’s “Collaboration” with communities non-existent

At Washington Square Park, Manhattan Community Board 2 ultimately – but quietly – rescinded its approval of the Parks Department’s plans (after approving them twice). Unfortunately, Commissioner Benepe still uses the initial “approval” as a selling point for his and Mayor Bloomberg’s “plans” for the park. At the heart of it, the community at large never approved of the redesign plans for this park. Their ideas and input were not implemented into the design except in ways that were minimal at best.

Save Ridgewood Reservoir states: “Highland Park and the Ridgewood Reservoir fall within Queens Community Board 5 and Brooklyn Community Board 5. Both boards recently voted to oppose development within the basins and support the mission of the Highland Park/Ridgewood Reservoir Alliance.”

Today’s NY Times: Save Ridgewood Reservoir from NYC Parks Department

Ridgewood ReservoirToday’s New York Times features an Op-Ed by NYC Comptroller William Thompson Jr. and Robert Kennedy Jr. calling for the preservation of Ridgewood Reservoir on the Brooklyn-Queens border, “a teeming wildlife preserve,” 20 acres of which the Parks Department wants to cover over with ball fields (artificial turf, no less).

It’s yet another example of the New York City Parks Department’s astounding and caustic attitude against preserving natural and wildlife habitat in our city.

The writers state that “this plan flies in the face of Mayor Michael Bloomberg‘s widely hailed environmental blueprint, which bemoans the loss of the city’s natural areas.” Really? I guess they are not familiar with what happened at Yankee Stadium, for starters, where two parks were sacrificed in the Bronx by the Bloomberg Administration. And, I’ve previously outlined the tree destruction that’s occurred at parks across our city.

Ridgewood Reservoir was built in 1858 to provide drinking water to the city of Brooklyn. It wasn’t until the end of the century that Brooklyn merged with the City of Greater New York and then gained access to its water supply system. It was abandoned entirely in 1989 at which point nature took over.

The article continues:

Ridgewood Reservoir on the Brooklyn-Queens border is an oasis where an amazing range of plant and animal species thrive in a verdant landscape of steep hills and narrow valleys amid the city’s paved sidewalks.

But what’s more astounding, the city’s Parks Department could wind up destroying it.

Ridgewood is an accidental wilderness, tucked alongside the Jackie Robinson Parkway. …

As the 50 acres reverted to wetlands, meadows and forests, tens of thousands of plants and trees took root and flourished. Turtles, fish, frogs and millions of insects moved in. Songbirds nested in the glades, transforming the area into a migratory rest stop. According to the National Audubon Society, 137 species of birds use the reservoir, including eight rare species. It is a place as close to unspoiled nature as you’re likely to find anywhere within city limits.

Yet, the New York City Parks Department is considering a $50 million “renovation” project that would cover more than 20 acres of the reservoir with athletic fields and facilities.

Our friends at Save Ridgewood Reservoir led a tour of this spot earlier this month with 70 people and 10 elected officials attending, all stunned at the beauty of this spot and the audacity of the Parks Department to want to pave it over. Let’s hope – and help spread the word – that they don’t accomplish their goal.