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Exclusive: Rare Upper West Side Sewer Mosquitoes Only Feed In Darkness

Despite Residents', CBS 2's Call For Action, NYC DOT, Health Dept. Slow To React
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Upper West Side mosquitoes

New York City has been slow to respond to a dangerous problem on the Upper West Side — a rare breed of mosquito that has made life miserable for residents. (Photo: CBS 2)

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NEW YORK (CBS 2) — CBS 2 is demanding answers from the city following our exclusive report on Thursday night rare mosquitoes plaguing the Upper West Side.

The blood-suckers are thriving year-round as they breed in New York City’s sewer system and then invade people’s homes. What is the mosquito mystery? Why is this happening now? CBS 2’s Dave Carlin found out more exclusive details on Friday.

Residents spend their days swatting and nights cowering under protective netting.

The pests enjoy a playground vast and warm enough for their year-round survival, New York City’s sewer system.

They come up to bite residents through small openings in basements and roads.

“They are telling us these mosquitoes live in the sewer and they’re biting our children. It is scary,” one mother told Carlin while with her 4-year-old son.

Some residents have bites that are so bad they need medical attention. The problem has been confirmed on West 84th Street near Riverside Drive, and also up at 98th Street, where Alexander Sari lives.

“One right here,” Sari told Carlin, displaying a bite mark. “The little welts not a comfortable feeling.”

“They itch. I mean it’s annoying,” added resident Katie Bonzer.

Working to solve this mosquito mystery are researchers at Rutgers University. Carlin saw one colony collected from a West 84th Street home.

Carlin put his hand in with hundreds of the insects, but nothing happened. Apparently, this breed of mosquito doesn’t bite in the light. Instead, they feast after dark.

Some New Yorkers mistakenly believe they have bed bugs instead of mosquitoes.

The problem is shockingly under-reported, said Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, who discovered the city’s 311 call center is not taking down all the complaints.

“One operator says we can only take mosquito complaints between April and Oct. 31,” Rosenthal said. “Another one said there’s nothing we can do because 311 can’t handle this.”

She said the City’s first line of defense should be plugging cracks and sinkholes that lead to the sewers.

On Friday, Carlin saw mosquitoes swarming out of a deep hole in the neighborhood. So where are the Department of Transportation repair crews to fix this problem?

The experts at Rutgers said a long-term fix is costly, involving the entire sewer system. It’s a dilemma that stings: Take a huge bite out of the city’ budget or continue to let little bites add up to ruin quality of life.

Late Friday afternoon a DOT spokesman contacted CBS 2 to say pothole repairs will be done on West 84th Street within a week. Health Department said these mosquitoes tested negative for West Nile virus.

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