As the city prepares to spray parts of the Bronx for West Nile, residents in one neighborhood say they live in a mosquito breeding ground. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.
People in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the Bronx fear something horrible is growing in the water known as "The Swamp" -- an area of
abandoned freight train tracks covered in standing water several feet deep. Residents say it's creating a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus or encephalitis.
"A few tenants, one in particular, she got bitten in the stomach by a mosquito. It had gotten infected. It got really bad. It had to be treated and drained," said Edwin Saltares of SEBCO Community Life Services.
Advocates have records dating back to the early 1990's of efforts to get the swamp cleaned up, a nearly 20 year problem.
"It just stinks, it is just bad. See it for yourself," said one Mott Haven resident.
NY1 first reported on the problem back in 2001. Fast forward a few years, and residents say the situation is much worse.
"We find dead animals in here. People doing voodoo. Found a goat with three dead chickens in a box," said Mott Haven resident Michael Medina. "They are doing all sorts of things and throwing it here. And we are the ones that are suffering.
The swamp runs a little more than a mile, through a train tunnel underneath St. Mary's Park where huge ventilation ducts are located.
Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum has tried to get the area drained for months.
"We went to the MTA, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Health, we went everywhere," said Gotbaum. "Nobody took any responsibility for this. As far as I am concerned it is now the city's obligation to clean up this space."
There are signs up that the city health department has put larvaecide in the area to prevent new mosquitoes, but that does nothing to stop the mosquitos that are already buzzing around.
Residents say the city sanitation department did clean a part of the swamp this year and several city agencies know about the problem.
Before any actions can be taken, city officials will also have to figure out who owns the old private train tracks and if they can legally fix the problem.