The West Nile War, Part
First Part Of Virus
Found In Queens Bird
The first sign that
the West Nile Virus is still alive and well in Queens came last week in the form of a sick
sparrow and a pool of water breeding mosquitoes.
Nile Found in Queens
The New York State
Department of Health has confirmed evidence of this years first cases of West Nile
Virus in a live sparrow and a mosquito pool in Bellerose.
are no immediate plans to spray pesticides, the war against the deadly West Nile Virus is
far from over.
Photo By Tamara Hartman
discoveries, there are no immediate plans to spray pesticides to kill the mosquitoes that
carry the virus, but health officials are urging residents to take precautions against
mosquitoes by eliminating standing water, and reporting dead birds to the New York City
Department of Health (DOH).
New York City Health
Commissioner Neal L.Cohen, M.D. said, These findings underscore the importance of
comprehensive efforts to identify the virus as early as possible. In response to these
findings, the city is intensifying its prevention activities in the area.
Although no humans
have tested positive for the disease this year, and there were no signs of the virus at
the Bellerose site after the infected mosquitoes were removed, city officials said they
will continue prevention efforts, including sweeping standing water from empty lots,
spreading larvacide, and increasing community education.
spraying program has raised controversy since its inception, with opponents claiming that
the pesticides are more dangerous to humans than the virus itself.
Sandra Mullin, DOH
representative, addressing concerns of anti-spraying environmentalists, said, At
this point, its an isolated finding. Unless
the virus activity intensifies, were going to continue to use preventive
Officials said city
workers will do any spraying, if necessary, and would use Anvil, which, according to city
Health Dept. officials, is considered to be safe.
But a memo recently
issued internally by the Police Department warned cops to stay clear of pesticide-spraying
trucks, and prohibits them from opening vehicle windows during spraying, according to
In response to the
first discovery of West Nile Virus in New York City, Congressmembers Nita Lowey and Joseph
Crowley requested emergency funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
for the citys mosquito eradication programs.
Crowley said he
believes the virus is a national threat, and the federal government should step-up its
efforts to assist New York City to combat this public health crisis.
New York City
taxpayers have spent millions in the campaign against the West Nile Virus, he said. It is becoming only more imperative that we
maintain our vigilance, and that costs money. Now is the time for FEMA to act.
Reports indicate the
city has spent more than $40 million to combat the virus in the past two years, and in
light of the July 19 discovery of the virus in Queens, are expected to spend millions
In a letter to FEMA
Director Joe Allbaugh, Lowey and Crowley said Queens was the original epicenter of the
virus, and the recent outbreak demonstrates it is returning.
This discovery reflects the fact that federal funding for detection efforts are
working successfully.. . but more must be done to protect the public.
Since the 1999
discovery of the virus in Queens, both Crowley and Lowey have secured $20 million in
federal funding for prevention and control efforts.
In addition, Crowley
was joined by Lowey in calling for a West Nile coordinator to work with federal, state,
and local governments in a coordinated prevention and control campaign.
They were successful
in getting then-President Bill Clinton to name Dr. Stephen Ostroff of the Centers for
Disease Control to this post.
also told Allbaugh, Mosquitoes dont respect state lines, and it is clearly
time for the federal government to stop this virus in its tracks. Families are depending on us to ensure their
health and well being.
Demand To Keep The
At a joint meeting
held on July 12 between the councils Contract Subcommittee Councilmember Kathryn
Freed, chairperson of the New York City Sierra Club, the Environmental Law and Justice
Project, and the No Spray Coalition, demands were made for the city stop spraying
pesticides and for a health impact assessment of previous spraying on residents.
According to Freed,
although some research shows that chemicals such as malathion, which was used two years
ago in the West Nile fight, stay around for months posing exposure risk for children, city
officials reopened parks soon after spraying took place.
Freed claimed that
last year the city sprayed two asthma triggering chemicals on residents who suffer
from the highest rate of asthma nationwide.
Department shouldnt be worsening the health of the people it serves, she
State Department of
Health (DOH) Representative Kristine Smith said although two infected birds were found
outside the city, everything was going according to the states response plan to
implement preventive measures.
havent sprayed yet. DOH policy is to
spray only as a last resort when there is an eminent threat to human health, she
While New York City
Health Commissioner, Neal L. Cohen, M.D. reported there were no incidents of West Nile
virus this year, he continued to urge residents to report dead birds and standing water to
the Health Department.
Cohen said the
Departments of Health (DOH), Parks and Recreation, Sanitation and the Housing Authority,
have all been taking necessary precautions to prevent infestation.
He also announced
the DOH is releasing its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), addressing concerns
about the need to spray pesticides. The
statement concludes that the potential for illness without a program to control the adult
mosquito population would be greater than the risk of adverse reactions to chemical
Cohen said that the
DOH has made every effort to review the potential for any adverse impact due to pesticide
spraying to control adult mosquitoes.
We intend to
remain vigilant in our emphasis on prevention and prudent in our use of all
pesticides, Cohen said.
On The Western Front
at Community Board 3, which covers Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst, and parts of Corona,
have been asking residents to report pools of water, which could serve as breeding grounds
So far it is relatively quiet, said
Giovanna Reid, district manager. Last year our phone was ringing of the hook."
West Nile Survivor Checklist
following is a checklist of things you can do to prevent the spread of the West Nile
sure that doors and windows have tight-fitting screens. Repair or replace all screens that
have tears or holes.
all discarded tires from your property.
of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots, or similar water-holding containers.
sure roof gutters drain properly. Clean clogged gutters in the spring and fall.
and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs. If not in use, keep empty and
water from pool covers.
the water in bird baths every three to four days.
over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use.
any standing water that collects on your property.
or help neighbors to eliminate breeding sites on their properties.
Some local hardware
stores may carry a product called Mosquito Dunk that contains a larvicide Bacillus
thuringiensis israelensis (BTI) for use in areas of standing water around the home
but the city Dept. of Health warns Queens residents to read the warning carefully.
water around the home to reduce breeding sites for mosquitoes and beware, direct handling
of larvicides may cause skin and eye irritation.
To report standing
water to the Health Department through the West Nile Virus Information Line at
1-877-WNV-4NYC (1-877-968-4692) or the citys web site (www.nyc.gov/health).
Immigrant Groups Call On Candidates
To Pledge Their Devotion
The New Immigrant
Community Empowerment (NICE) group believes it is about time somebody created a system for
elected officials and neighbors to communicate better, and this week they will set their
plan in motion to deal with the citizen-government disconnect.
The plan, called the
Government Access and Accountability Campaign, will be announced at a press conference at
City Hall on July 29, and is a response to a series of surveys done by NICE during its
2000 Census outreach campaign. Queens Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin will be the keynote
Bryan Pu-Folkes, founder of
New Immigration Community Enpowerment (Nice) wants politicians
to reach out to Queens immigrant communities. The goal is to re-connect government
and those it serves through survey forms, constituent reports
and town hall meetings.
According to the
survey, results clearly show a disconnect between politicians and their constituents,
especially in immigrant communities.
Brian Pu-Folkes, the
founder of NICE, said, The results of these surveys were alarming. Both immigrants
and non-immigrants were unclear of the roles of their elected officials, and didnt
know who they were. In addition, and most importantly, immigrants showed a fear of the
American political system. They seemed to distrust the system, and government cannot work
effectively if that is the case.
In additional NICE
surveys done in May, both immigrants and non-immigrants in Jackson Heights, Forest Hills,
Corona, Elmhurst and Flushing had trouble identifying their City Council member, and were
unclear of how to contact them.
Of the 257 residents
surveyed, only seven percent of them could name their City Council representative.
representatives should be close to their constituents, Pu-Folkes said. City
Council members are neighborhood politicians, in a way. They should be accessible to
residents and residents should be aware of who they are. There is a disconnect between
politicians and community members that must be closed.
NICE has founded the
Government Access and Accountability Campaign, which is now supported by 16 cultural and
political organizations across New York City. The campaign asks new City Council
representatives to make their best efforts to increase accessibility to their
constituents by complying with three suggestions.
First, City Council
members are asked to hold at least two town meetings each year, with translators for
non-English speaking residents. Pu-Folkes said, Meetings are extremely important.
Council members have to speak directly with constituents on a regular basis. The meetings
should be held at an accessible location, and translators should be available. This will
keep people up-to-date on issues in their district.
Council members are
also asked to mail Annual District Needs Surveys to constituents. These surveys ask
residents what they think the important district issues are and what needs to be done to
address them. Pu-Folkes said, These surveys may start slow and catch on. Immigrants
particularly may be nervous about filling them out the first year, but once the benefits
become clear to them, we hope it will have a snowball effect.
The last request in
the campaign is that council members make an Annual Constituent Report available to
The report should
outline the activities of the council members office, including how many calls were
made, how many mailings were made, how constituents were helped, and what some of the key
problems in the district were.
Pu-Folkes said that
currently council members are not quick to respond to requests for similar information. He
said, My organization tried to contact all City Council members to ask them for
constituent information in May. We sent surveys via snail mail, e-mail and telephone. Of
the 51 members of City Council, seven responded. Of the seven, only two responses
came from Queens.
There are council members without websites or e-mail access in the year 2001.
Thats unacceptable. If council members comply with our campaign, accessibility
problems will slowly be solved.
NICE sent letters on
July 20 to every City Council candidate in New York asking them to support the campaign.
Pu-Folkes is expecting a positive response. I think a fair amount of candidates will
respond, he said. I think once a few candidates support the campaign, many
others will follow.
Pu-Folkes said that
NICE will work with council members who cannot afford to comply with the campaign. He
said, We know that districts are on a budget. Not every district can have two big
town hall meetings. We will help them fund these things.
Verizon, a major
corporate entity, has agreed to help NICE
with this venture, awarding the organization a three-year grant for the campaign. New
Immigrant Community Empowerment will receive a minimum of $20,000 during the first year of
The grant will be
shared by NICE, the Taft Institute for Government at Queens College, and the St.
Johns University Committee on Latin American and Caribbean Studies. The two schools
will work with NICE in the future by offering Civic Education Online Courses in 2004.
Pu-Folkes said, The Civic Education courses are part of the campaign, but a part in
the future right now. The disconnect between politicians and government is a two-sided
disconnect. Politicians are not the only ones not
making the effort, its also residents. They are not aware of their civic
responsibilities and rights, and these courses will bring them up to speed.
The campaign will be
tested in three Queens districts - 20, 21, 25 - during the first election cycle. Pu-Folkes
said that the campaign is not limited to those areas, however. We will be
concentrating in those areas, he said. If a group wants to follow our model in
other districts, though, we will work with them and implement the plan there as
In addition to the
three requests and the civic course, there will also be a massive outreach campaign by
NICE to get residents interested in the campaign and aware that surveys could be coming
through direct mail. NICE will run non-partisan candidate forums, a community blitz to
help residents understand the position of candidates, and sample town hall meetings to
show residents what the meetings will be like.
Pu-Folkes, who has
lived his entire adult life in Jackson Heights and Jamaica, believes strongly in this
campaign, and thinks it will greatly help Queens. Im a Queens boy,
Pu-Folkes said. I love Queens. I always tell people visiting New York, sure you need
to see the Brooklyn Bridge and the Village and all that, but you have to see Queens. Where
else can you walk four blocks and see fifteen different cultures? This diversity is
wonderful, but it can cause governmental problems with accessibility. With new cultures
constantly coming in, its hard to incorporate all of them, and nowhere in the city is that more evident than in
Queens. Our campaign is still being tested, and we have some kinks to work out, but we are
confident it will succeed and really help Queens and New York become a greater
Pu-Folkes is a
graduate of both Hillcrest High School and Queens College, and is the son of two
immigrants. I saw how hard it was for my parents to adjust to life here, he
said. Its still hard for them. My mom is from Burma and my dad is from
Jamaica. They had to work hard to succeed, as is the case for most immigrants. Knowing
that they have a council member in their corner is key to them feeling more comfortable.
In the same way, its extremely important for council members to know what their
constituents want. This campaign would benefit everybody.
copies of the surveys, as well as more information on the campaign, are available on
NICEs website, at www.nynice.org.