Last year Greenpoint resident Robert G. Materson, 76, got slapped with a $350 fine for a birdbath in his backyard. Birdbaths are perfectly legal, mind you, but the "bath" part is something the city Health Department isn't too keen on. In an attempt to prevent the spread of West Nile Virus, the Health Department has been issuing fines to New Yorkers who have birdbaths on their property containing murky standing water mosquitoes love. And it's about time the city finally decided to do something about the urban menace that is the birdbath! Also, shouldn't these birdbaths be handicap accessible, and feature little birdie lifeguards?

“Between the birds and the evaporation, there’s no water in that sucker after a couple of days,” Materson tells the Times. "I get four blackbirds splashing out all the water to three-quarters of an inch and then the sparrows show up.” Materson is fighting the fine, but even though he insists the water "was neither stagnant nor murky," the court examiner decided that because Materson was not present during the inspection, "he could not have observed what the inspector claims to have observed."

Materson plans to appeal, and he's not draining the water either. "I sent pictures of manhole covers outside the 94th Precinct that have as much water as I do," he tells the Times. "That’s my mother’s birdbath. That’s going to stay." One of the other four New Yorkers who was fined last year fled the country without paying.

A Health Department spokesman explains, "Standing waters become increasingly stagnant with time as they become more and more concentrated with decomposing organic material, which is food for the mosquito larvae." The department recommends replacing birdbath water every two to three days to prevent mosquito breeding.

To be sure, it makes sense for city officials to try to eliminate mosquito breeding conditions—after all, West Nile Virus killed a Queens resident last year. And once they finish educating birdbath owners, inspectors will just need to make sure there isn't a single puddle allowed to exist anywhere in the city limits.