"Warning: Sewer lizard extermination in progress. Stay clear," cautioned stickers affixed to hundreds of sewer grates and manhole covers.
Then there were the men in hard hats and uniforms handing out cards Friday warning of the impending spraying and directing concerned citizens to an Internet site.
"They reminded me of the guys in 'Ghostbusters,'" said a Brooklyn court oficial, who encountered the men on Court St. in Brooklyn.
The site (www.sewer-alert.org) features a purported picture of C. Hemizibecus Gigantus and the following:
"First classified as a human threat in July 2000, the New York sewer lizard ... inhabits the 976 miles of sewer tunnels running beneath all five boroughs of New York City."
"Growing up to 3 meters [9.8 feet] in length and weighing up to 200 kilograms [440 pounds], the sewer lizard can be considered dangerous to humans."
The site purports to be operated by an organization known as "The NYSA," which "maintains and conducts quality control of the sewer system."
But the Department of Environmental Protection, which really operates the sewer system, says the whole business is just a costly hoax.
"One of our managers saw them at lunchtime in Queens, handing these things out," said Charles Sturcken, chief of staff of the Department of Environmental Protection.
"They told one of our guys they were working for a Broadway media company, promoting something on the Sci-Fi Channel," he said.
Attempts to reach the Sci-Fi Channel and the media company were unsuccessful yesterday.
Most people took the "news" of the lizards in their stride. "It's amusing," said Frank Allman, 29, of Michigan, as he read the bumper sticker-sized sign on a manhole cover on Ninth Ave. in Manhattan.
"It's not amusing, countered Allman's friend, Jared Shapiro, 25, of Michigan. "It's not clever, and/or funny."
It takes a lot to catch the attention of New Yorkers--but a crew of workers in haz-mat suits did just that last week as they handed out flyers and affixed stickers warning of impending street spraying to ward off "sewer lizards," giant underground reptiles that threaten the city. Even the New York Daily News took note of the distribution in its pages.
What the New Yorkers didn't know at the time was that the men and their warnings were part of a hoax perpetrated by The SCI FI Channel to promote its upcoming paranormal series The Chronicle.
The hoax became clear when residents consulted the "Sewer Alert" Web site, which quickly linked them to SCIFI.COM and the Chronicle's home page. The promotion was in keeping with the show's theme, "Believe Everything," and its storyline, about a New York tabloid newspaper whose stories about monsters and unusual phenomena are absolutely true.
"It's amusing," Frank Allman, 29, of Michigan told the Daily News. But
his friend, Jared Shapiro, 25, wasn't as charmed. "It's not amusing,"
Shapiro told the newspaper "It's not clever, and/or funny." The
Chronicle, starring Rena Sofer and Chad Willett, premieres at 9 p.m.