Parents are complaining that rats searching for bits of food are jumping into their children’s strollers in Upper West Side parks, and state Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal wants New York City to do something about it.
“The rat problem here is severe,” said Ms. Rosenthal, a Democrat whose district includes the neighborhood. “More money, more efforts need to be directed to the parks here on the Upper West Side.”
The city, she said in an interview, should invest part of its $32 million Neighborhood Rat Reduction plan in her district to help battle the rodents plaguing her constituents. The proposal, introduced by Mayor Bill de Blasio last month, targets the Lower East Side, Chinatown, the East Village, the Bronx’s Grand Concourse area and the Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhoods in Brooklyn.
“Our new plan builds upon our current abatement efforts to target the three most infested neighborhoods in NYC, and will be fully launched by the end of 2017,” a City Hall spokeswoman said Tuesday. “Once this is complete, the city will review the plan’s impact and discuss expansion to other zones.”
Ms. Rosenthal said the city should include Upper West Side parks, noting the hefty rat population presents a public-health risk, especially during the summer. In addition to reports of rats hopping into strollers, Ms. Rosenthal said parents have complained to her office and online about infestations in parks.
A video sent to the West Side Rag blog by a resident showing a large rat scurrying around Elephant Playground in Riverside Park has made the rounds among Upper West Side denizens.
JoAnn Kranis, a resident for more than 40 years, recalled that there were no rats when she would take her older grandchildren to neighborhood parks about three years ago.
“I never saw it before, and now I am in (the parks) again with the younger grandchildren and I see them all over the place,” she said Tuesday at the Diana Ross Playground in Central Park.
As she spoke, several rats roamed around the edges of the playground. Disgusted parents pulled their children away from the rodents who scurried into the bushes. Many snapped photos of the furry invaders.
The mayor’s office said the city runs two Upper West Side rat-reservoir programs, which target rat colonies and conditions that attract vermin at a citywide cost of $2.9 million a year.
A rodent scurries in Central Park’s Diana Ross Playground. Residents and local officials are demanding the city clean up rat infestations in New York City neighborhoods.Photo: Yana Paskova for The Wall Street Journal
Under the program, staff visit infested areas every seven to 10 days until they get rid of the rodents. Such programs have resulted in an 80% to 90% drop in rat activity in the targeted areas, according to the City Hall spokeswoman.
Under the Neighborhood Rat Reduction plan, “smart” trash cans, dry ice and larger fines for illegal garbage dumping have been used to battle the vermin, in addition to other city and Department of Health rat-eradication programs.
According to Ms. Rosenthal’s office, the Upper West Side area can’t use conventional rodenticide to combat rats because it could poison hawks that live in the area.
Ms. Rosenthal, who recently met with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, proposed using dry ice to rid her district of rats. The ice is placed in burrows, suffocating the rodents when it turns to gas. Although dry-ice methods have been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, the city isn’t using them because it must get clearance from the state Environmental Conservation Department.
Upper West Side councilwoman Helen Rosenthal said her office is working with residents, the city’s health department and local parks to address the rat problem. This year, she said, her office has allocated $78,000 toward placing Big Belly garbage bins—which are closed, so rats can’t get in—in playgrounds and other areas in Riverside Park.
“The City is testing dry ice as a possible rodenticide and this looks very promising,” she said Tuesday in an email. “We will explore every avenue until the problem is fully addressed.”