Ready for the “Round-up”? Saying “No” to Glyphosate in New York City’s Parks

Reverend Billy and Sister Dragonfly lead the protest in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park against the City’s use of Monsanto’s Roundup

Reverend Billy and Sister Dragonfly lead the protest in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park against the City’s use of Monsanto’s Roundup

When will the City re-examine and change its methods when it comes to its creation of environmental and health chaos?

On August 24, 2015, Reverend Billy drummed this theme (literally), as 40 members of the Church of Stop Shopping and No Spray activists flocked to Prospect Park to initiate a new campaign against the City’s use of the herbicide Glyphosate (Monsanto’s “Roundup”). This past March, the World Health Organization ruled that Roundup is a likely carcinogen, causing birth defects and other serious neurological and biological ailments. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is placing new restrictions on the herbicide. Stopping the use of Glyphosate is the focus of ecological activists worldwide, but the St. Louis-based corporation has its highly paid lobbyists who continue to press local, state and even federal governments to keep using its dangerous product.

Reverend Billy preached to the crowd, “This park is riddled with toxins. The Parks Commissioner can’t seem to pull gyphosate out of the herbicides.” Reverend Billy, Savitri D. and others spoke and the Stop Shopping choir sang about the dangers of Round Up, and especially its poisoning of bees and other beneficial insects. They led a parade through the park chanting and singing past the Parks Department’s beautiful old-time warehouses. The group stopped in the area where the spray trucks are stationed and then tied hot pink cards to the fence that read: “Round Up Kills. Stop Spraying.”


The No Spray Coalition against pesticides has for 14 years opposed the application of glyphosate (Roundup), particularly on sidewalks around schools and parks. In response to our letters and meetings, the City added a colored dye to the chemicals to warn people that it had been applied, so if you see blue or yellow dye on grassy areas, between sidewalk cracks, etc., you know to avoid it. However, young kids see that dye and stomp through it, roll around it it, ride their bikes through it, etc. It is an ATTRACTOR to children, despite the intent.

Around 10 years ago, the No Spray Coalition met with former Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Julius Spiegel, and he agreed to at least have announcements made over the speakers in every public school if glyphosate — or any herbicide — was applied in the general vicinity. This seemed to be a cost-effective no-brainer. But this never happened despite the agreement with Spiegel. His right-hand man, a biochemical “specialist”, engaged us in a debate over glyphosate, saying how “safe” the chemical was despite the written and very thorough information provided from Greenpeace and Beyond Pesticides (one of the co-Plaintiffs in the NoSpray Coalition’s lawsuit against the City, which was settled seven years after filing) showing it to be a dangerous and potential carcinogen.

Those meetings with Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Spiegel were ten years ago. Now, finally, we’re vindicated by an important international agency which has condemned the use of glyphosate, but how many people have been injured in the meantime?

on the walk there ... through the fields...

on the walk there … through the fields…



Brooklyn’s jewel, Prospect Park, is managed by a private organization, the Prospect Park Alliance. The PPA had previously denied using Roundup within the 585 acre park, but a spokesperson for the Alliance now states that the Parks Department does use “small amounts” in the park. For years, the No Spray Coalition and the Brooklyn Greens had met with officials to ban the application of Roundup and other herbicides and pesticides to the perimeter to kill weeds. Workers used to weed the “undesirable flora” by hand, until Parks Department budget cuts over the last 25 years caused them to axe 70 percent of the workforce and replaced their methodical work with the spraying of chemical poisons.

Brooklyn remains the most heavily pesticided and herbicided county in the entire state, a situation exacerbated by the switch to chemical pest controls to substitute for the workers who were laid off.

When something is known to have dangerous environmental and health impacts, no matter what the reason, it should be eliminated from usage. Apparently, the City Council is working on a bill around Round Up and may hold a hearing. It can’t happen soon enough.

It is wonderful the Rev. Billy & co. have picked up this campaign to end Glyphosate and pesticides in New York City.

Listen here for

Listen here to Mitchel’s interview with 10 year old participant (audio to come)


Learn about the dangers of glyphosate and the campaigns against it, here:

International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded “there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity based on laboratory studies.” March 2015

Will City’s Parks Department Stop use of Monsanto’s Roundup After International Report Declares Chemical a Carcinogen?; Washington Square Park Blog, March 27, 2015

Lobbyist claims Monsanto Roundup ingredient Glyphosate safe to drink, then refuses to drink it via BoingBoing, March 27, 2015

Monsanto’s Roundup Is the Most Used Herbicide in NYC Parks Mother Jones, September 2012

16 Years of Toxic Pesticide Spraying Across NYC: When will it end?

Spray Truck Spews Pesticides in Brooklyn

Spray truck spews pesticides in Brooklyn (2006)

For the eighth time this summer, New York City government is spraying toxic pesticides, this time in Brooklyn Wednesday night, August 19th. It is one of hundreds of times pesticides have been sprayed throughout NYC over the last 16 years allegedly to control West Nile virus.

The De Blasio Administration has continued in the same manner as the Mayor’s predecessors in the Bloomberg Administration, and the Giuliani Administration which started it all.

Original artwork by Robert Lederman

Original artwork by Robert Lederman

The City is downplaying the dangers of these pesticides, primarily the pyrethroid Anvil 10 + 10 and the carcinogen Piperonyl Butoxide, among other dangerous chemicals in their composition. That’s the City’s propaganda.

These chemicals inflict great harm to human health and the environment. They also kill beneficial insects including dragonflies, butterflies, bees, and harm wildlife, animals, fish and pets.

As was the case with the previous administrations, there is a continued lack of notification. And because there is so little media coverage of this, most people are likely unaware that the spraying is even occurring. They first become aware when they return home from the subway, are out walking their dog, playing basketball, eating in an outdoor restaurant, or as they have their windows open and see or hear the spray truck whizzing by with no notice beforehand (there may be a police car which emits a muffled announcement seconds before). The chemicals remain on playground equipment that their children play on the next day.

Several studies show that mosquito spraying actually increases the number of mosquitoes. Manhattan has not been sprayed in years and has zero “mosquito pools.”

And the City continues to advocate the use of DEET. DEET is absolute poison for children especially. Meanwhile, the Health Department states that children’s toys and play equipment left outside in the spray can be cleaned of pesticides by “washing with soap and water.” That’s it? No gloves? No special preparations needed? If the spraying is safe, as the City maintains, why the concern with washing off the children’s playthings? Shutting windows? Keeping your air conditioner on, with the outside vent closed?

A press release from the NYC Dept of Health issued August 16, 2015 states that the first human case of West Nile Virus Infection for 2015 resulted in the New York resident being briefly hospitalized, treated, and discharged. And now they’re poisoning thousands of people?!

“This first case of West Nile virus disease in New York City provides a vital reminder to protect ourselves against mosquito bites,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Wearing mosquito repellent when you are outdoors, and long sleeves and pants in the morning and evening will reduce your risk of infection. New Yorkers age 60 and older or persons with weakened immune systems should be especially careful as they are more likely to become seriously ill, and in rare instances die, if infected.”


What Dr. Bassett leaves out is that this same demographic — and add children to it — are even more greatly affected by the pesticides spraying. Why omit that obvious point if human health is the concern?

Human cases of West Nile virus occur each year in New York City, typically from July through October. A total of 318 New Yorkers have been diagnosed with West Nile virus since it was first found in the United States in 1999. That’s an average of around 20 people per year, and most of those people have fully recovered. Which is not to minimize the tragic consequences of WNV to a few people. But poisoning an entire population is not the way to deal with this situation. It is insane.

The City government also stresses that it is applying just a small amount of chemical pesticides (adulticides) to kill adult mosquitoes. Those “small amounts” are just as poisonous — and they bio-accumulate in the body’s tissues year after year — as any other “small amount” of poison. The minimizing of the dangers by the City is completely misleading. It is propaganda and anti-scientific, and Dr. Bassett should (and probably does) know better. It is designed to make the spraying seem OK to the average New Yorker who trusts health officials not to lie to them in this way.

The Dept of Health staff are now issuing reports advocating their spray program. These are often secretarial workers with no expertise or health “experts” who are invested ideologically in the charade of spraying and thus cannot afford to believe that there are untenable risks. There has been no independent review or analysis of pesticides’ impacts on the environment and human health commissioned by NY City officials since the spray program began. Meanwhile, the Health Department would have the general public believe that “there is no significant risk.”

There is great risk. Mass spraying of pesticides is no way to deal with the incidence of mosquitoes said to be carrying West Nile Virus. Increasing, instead, the natural predators of mosquitoes — dragonflies, birds, bats, frogs — is far more effective and much less dangerous.

The harm being done by this spraying needs to end and a new framework be put into place.

The No Spray Coalition demands that the City stop its deadly pesticides spraying program Now — stop poisoning humans and the environment as well as the entire eco-system, animals, wildlife and insects.

* * *

Here is a map of the area in Brooklyn to be sprayed Wednesday night August 19th which includes zip codes: 11210, 11229, 11234, and 11235 which includes parts of Georgetown, Mill Basin, Flatlands, East Flatbush, Flatbush, Marine Park, Midwood, and Mill Island and zip codes 11204, 11209, 11214, 11219, 11223, and 11228 which includes parts of Bath Beach, Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights, Gravesend, Fort Hamilton, and New Utrecht.

Stop NYC’s New Round of Pesticide Spraying, Now

While being sprayed with Anvil 10+10 pesticides including carcinogenic piperonyl butoxide (2006) without warning, young Sunset Park Brooklyn residents try to cover up.

August 11, 2015 — The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOH) renews its annual pesticide-spraying assault on the people of New York City tonight in Staten Island and Queens.

Areas of New Jersey are also being widely sprayed.

All mass spraying of pyrethroid and organophosphate pesticides are dangerous to human health (especially to children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems), as well as to pets, fish, and other animals. The spraying must be halted immediately.


Every year, the NYC DOH grants itself waivers from New York City Local Law 37, a law passed in 2005 in response to growing concerns over the health and environmental consequences of mass-spraying of Malathion (and other organophosphates) and Anvil 10+10 (and other pyrethroids, especially those containing the carcinogen Piperonyl Butoxide).

Only through application and granting of such waivers is the Department of Health enabled to legally conduct the pesticides spraying.

But the NYC DOH is circumventing the law. It applies for a waiver to itself, and then it grants itself pro forma the right and authority to spray deadly pesticides in NYC. No other agency reviews its application. The checks and balances envisioned in Local Law 37 are thus thwarted.

See, especially, a powerful review in City Limits of the waivers to Local Law 37, here.

The No Spray Coalition, which won its lawsuit against the City government in federal court in 2005 and achieved a settlement agreement two years later, is outraged by the spraying. The City’s Department of Health has failed to seriously consider:

a) the admissions it made concerning the dangers of pesticides in the 2007 stipulated Settlement Agreement with the No Spray Coalition, et al. in federal court; and

b) the 4 pillars for waivers in Local Law 37 (referenced also as a separate point in the Settlement Agreement).

These amount to a violation of the terms of the Settlement Agreement as well as key provisions of Local Law 37.

This year’s spray of choice is, once again, Anvil 10+10. It is listed in Local Law 37 as containing piperonyl butoxide and MGK-284. These are both “synergists” in Anvil 10+10, and they are both classified as possible human carcinogens by the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs.

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

“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 New York City government 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 the federal lawsuit brought in 2000 by the No Spray Coalition and other organizations against the New York City government’s pesticide-spraying campaign. 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, bats, frogs and birds)
  • 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. Levi Fishman, deputy press secretary at the Dept. of Health, explained to City Limits reporter Elah Feder:

“When properly used, this product poses no significant risks to human health. It degrades rapidly in sunlight, provides little or no residual activity, and does not accumulate in the environment.”

Feder immediately pointed out that “nevertheless, the city advises residents to bring children’s toys, outdoor equipment, and clothing indoors before spraying takes place, and to wash anything that has come in contact with Anvil.” If there are no significant risks, why all that advice?

The fact is, the spraying puts many New York City residents and visitors at grave risk.

“These 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,”

said Howard Brandstein, adding:

“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 (not a naturally occurring pyrethrin), made in the laboratory — as well as dangerous benzene-related chemicals (which the label calls “inert ingredients.”)

Thousands of New Yorkers are severely sickened by the spraying every year, but they go unrecorded and unreported. Several members of the No Spray Coalition, including two of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, died from pesticide-related illnesses. Many suffer from Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS) or Asthma caused or exacerbated by the spraying.

The City administration must be made to understand that pesticides are extremely dangerous to human health as well as to the natural environment, and have long-term consequences.

The No Spray Coalition details the reasons for vacating NYC DOH’s waivers as follows:

  1. The Department of Health has illegally circumvented Local Law 37’s attempt to protect against health and environmental dangers;
  2. The City has entered into a multi-year pattern that misinterprets and misuses blindspots in the law, which in general forbids spraying of toxic pesticides on City lands;
  3. The City has failed to abide by its own admissions in the Settlement Agreement with the No Spray Coalition et al. in 2007, review the latest scientific research, and participate in discussions with the No Spray Coalition in good faith;
  4. The City has failed to evaluate the “public health threat” from pesticide spraying as well as West Nile virus. There has been no Environmental Impact Statement in the last 15 years on which to examine the effects of the spraying;
  5. There have been no public hearings in contradiction to the requirements in Local Law 37 and other regulations;
  6. The City has repeatedly failed to adequately notify the public before spraying pesticides, in violation of Local Law 37 and other regulations, and in violation of the Settlement Agreement;
  7. The City has failed to seriously utilize safer alternatives to pesticide spraying;
  8. The City has failed to respond in a timely fashion to important questions and concerns from NY Assembly member William Colton, and others;
  9. The City is illegally spraying toxic pesticides on the people and environment of New York.

The No Spray Coalition strongly urges the City to stop pesticide spraying immediately, reconsider its entire approach, and seek alternative, safe means to control mosquitoes. There are natural, safe ways for each person to ward off mosquitoes. The City should not be poisoning the entire population.

We call on the Mayor and City Council to hold the DOH in violation of the intent of Local Law 37 and other laws, and of the Court-mandated “Settlement Agreement” with the No Spray Coalition, et al., and urge City officials to stop the spraying NOW. Please protect the residents and visitors to New York and the natural environment from the extremely dangerous, unnecessary, ineffective and illegal mass spraying of toxic pesticides.

Stop spraying now. Stop poisoning people, animals and the environment.


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