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West New York officials defend handling of Spotted Lanternfly infestation

Residents raised concerns at recent board meeting over alleged lack of local action

A spotted lanternfly with its wings open, sucking the life out of a tree. Image via Shutterstock.

West New York officials are defending their handling of the Spotted Lanternfly infestation following residents complaints.

Rianna Bryceland asked Mayor Gabriel Rodriguez and the West New York Board of Commissioners what is being done to curb the pests at the local level at the September 7 meeting. She also asked if the administration is aware of the spraying of the invasive insects in the more affected areas of the county by the Hudson Regional Health Commission.

“Considering North Bergen has already received help, what communications has the administration had with the HRHC to ensure West New York is included?” Bryceland asked. “Aside from spraying to alleviate the presence of the SLF during the Farmers Market, I have seen no other proactive initiative taken by the town’s administration, even though the New Jersey state government has published an extensive informational website dedicated to this invasive insect and that our governor has instructed the citizens to destroy the pests on site.”

Bryceland pointed to Hudson County Commissioner Chairman Anthony Vainieri’s Facebook post from August 3 regarding county action against the Spotted Lanternfly.

“This week I instructed the county parks and roads departments to start spraying on Blvd East for Lanternflies,” Vainieri wrote. “We will keep this going throughout the rest of the summer and if needed longer. I walked with the staff and saw all the Lanternflies all over. Just to let you all know, we are on it. I just was watching the news and there is a problem on the beaches as well with these flies. So again, we will be doing a major treatment constantly to address this problem.”

Bryceland took issue with this, noting she has yet to see the county in West New York or Weehawken. She alleged North Bergen received “special treatment” of the county following media coverage of Lanternflies on an apartment building in the township.

“Because the news concentrated on a high rise in North Bergen, North Bergen has been getting some special treatment,” Bryceland said. “I would very much like West New York to get some special treatment.”

Spotted Lanternflies invade Hudson County 

Following that, Bryceland showed infestations at the Versailles Apartments in West New York at 6600 Boulevard East. She said the insects swarm on the front and back of the building, on the promenade, and at the pool.

“I would say, and I’m not even exaggerating 75 to 80… crawling up… and concentrating in the corner, all on top of one another,” Bryceland said. “They were running all the way down… crawling up the building. Then right underneath where the D Line apartments, there was even more, twice as many and then going around the side.”

Bryceland said she has been hunting them down at her building. She has amassed quite the Spotted Lanternfly kill count.

“I was able to take out 300 to 400 of them with my handy fly swatter,” Bryceland said. “I broke a fly swatter and had to go upstairs to get another one.”

However, the problem is not isolated to just one area in town. Bryceland said the invasive species is killing trees and plants throughout West New York, evident by the honeydew left behind on trees after the Spotted Lanternflies suck the sap from the host plant.

“I walked down Boulevard East, and they began attacking the trees,” Bryceland said. “The trees on Boulevard East are beleaguered. They are dripping in the Lanternflies’ honeydew…”

She continued: “They started the invasion last year… and this year it is out of control. I’m hoping that we can get the same kind of consideration from the county so that we can at least start to beat back this infestation.”

Town is aware of the issue

Mayor Rodriguez responded that the town is already in communication with county officials.

“I can tell you we are in contact with the county, specifically about this issue,” Rodriguez said. “We’d be happy to get back to you when we have further updates and plans in terms of what the rollout will be. It’s obviously affecting the entire tri-state area and we are part of that.”

Bryceland added that this affected more than just the tri-state area.

“It’s really, this is almost an emergency,” Bryceland said. “It’s gotten to that point.”

Ginger Thatcher, another resident of the Versailles Apartments, echoed Bryceland.

“It seems that Bergen County is already spraying for these, and I just want to reiterate that the time to do that is yesterday,” Thatcher said. “These have to be addressed because they’ve gone from manageable to completely ruined our summer at the pool. You couldn’t enjoy it because they were jumping in on you, flying in.”

Thatcher added that the problem is all over West New York, and urged the town take action.

“They’re all over the cliffs of the Palisades, all the way up and down, all the way to Jersey City. I was told there was supposed to be coordination between the three towns of Weehawken, West New York, and Jersey City. But I have not heard anything yet about that happening, nor have I seen any action being taken and it has to happen. They are out of control. It’s horrible.”

Rodriguez responded, “I agree.” Manager of Special Project Jonathan Castañeda added he would have answers for residents soon, noting that there was an upcoming meeting between entities to address the problem.

“We’ve been working with our Health Officer recently and Hudson Regional [Health Commission] to plan out the three towns you just mentioned coordinating,” Castañeda said.

In the meantime, the best way residents can help to stop the spread of the Spotted Lanternflies is to stomp them out.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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