Poison Ivy in Public? Here's How to Deal

(Image courtesy of Colin Purrington via Flickr)
(Image courtesy of Colin Purrington via Flickr)

It’s summertime, and that means backyard BBQs, ragin’ block parties and little-‘uns running amok. But nothing puts a damper on things like those little-‘uns – or you – running into a patch of Toxicodendron, better known as Poison Ivy. The three-leafed scourge takes root all over New York’s grassy areas if not treated, and can be responsible for itchy rashes, nasty eye infections and even worse for those particularly sensitive to the green menace’s toxins.

That’s why when we heard that it was running rampant in public places, with little bits of the leaves torn off by children passing by, we thought we’d hit up the local authorities to find out how you can have the city root out the problem.

Turns out, there’s a Parks Department program specifically designed to tackle on pests like this. The Integrated Pest Management approach to weed control of poison ivy eradicates the three-leafed vine with an EPA-approved herbicide, Roundup, which is absorbed by the plant leaves and kills the entire plant including the roots to prevent further growth.  Once the plant has dried out, crews return and remove it completely since the urushiol oils responsible for causing itching is still potent. Parks official Philip Abramson says the department’s field crews are adept in its identification and removal. The department receives complaints via 311 – so if you see a vine in a park or other public space, be sure to report it and crews are dispatched almost immediately.

However, removal is a bit more complicated. Parks can only be responsible for their own land. We’ve also received reports of it growing along the Belt Parkway, or in the empty lot adjacent to the train tracks that runs along East 15th between Avenue Y and Avenue Z. These properties are owned and managed by the Department of Transportation. To ensure its removal, we’re told you should contact your local councilman.

If any of the locations are in Councilman Fidler’s district, contact his office directly at 718-241-9330. If it’s in Councilman Nelson’s district, call 718-368-9176. Officials in both offices told us the number one problem they have with this kind of complaint is callers being unable to provide a location. So before you call, make sure you have as many details as possible about the location of poison ivy growth.

And remember: If it’s three, let it be.

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