City officials launched a renewed effort Monday to drain and clean the Bronx Swamp, a mile-long stretch of abandoned railway in Mott Haven, responding to the years-long plea by residents for something to be done. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.
Workers from the Department of Environmental Protection were almost knee-deep Monday in what's called the Bronx Swamp, draining the murky water which has been a problem in this community for more than 15 years.
"I get angry you know. A lot of tenants get angry," said resident Heribeto Velez. "We kept on trying with the mayor, the city, the commissioner and everything is getting done. Slowly, it's getting done."
The swamp sits on abandoned freight train tracks that have flooded over the years, becoming a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Residents constantly complained, saying the mosquitoes are not just a nuisance; they could carry West Nile virus.
This year was especially bad because of all of the rain.
The city says it has been unable to get the property owners to clean up the swamp.
"There are about six entities from CSX, to I think Amtrak, potentially the MTA's name came up," said Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler. "We have a list of the groups we contacted to tell them that we had records to indicate at one point or another they owned [the land]. They all denied it."
Now the city is stepping in, considering the tracks abandoned and a health hazard. Along with draining the water, the city says all of the garbage will be cleaned out.
"A lot of the work is taking the debris off of the ledges and sides of the hills," explained Department of Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty. "One of our concerns now is how stable the ground is and if the ground gets too muddy and bogs down our equipment."
One local resident claims the swamp situation has been a painful experience, and she has the scar to prove it. Kelly Bisogno says she had to have an infected mosquito bite drained by doctors two years ago.
"It hurt a lot. When the doctor touched it, it hurt a lot. I'm quite sure the whole hospital heard me scream," she said.
Residents say although the swamp is being drained, they want to make sure it remains dry.
"What the community would really like is a drainage system, because that is what will really keep this from happening again in the future," resident Edwin Saltares said.
It could take two days to drain the swamp and another two to three weeks to clean it out.