Assemblyman Joe Lentol wrote a letter urging Health Commissioner Thomas Farley to address the influx of rats in the area surrounding the reconstruction project, which aims to upgrade the city’s aging infrastructure along Nassau Avenue in Greenpoint.
“I have asked them to bring in the ‘rat squad’ because people are finding rats as big as cats in large numbers, and they’re overrunning certain areas,” Lentol said. “I believe that whenever you have a project when you’re digging up the ground in the city, the rats are going to be disturbed, so you should come prepared to deal with that.”
Victor Lubera, a resident of Nassau Avenue, said he has killed 18 rats in the past month outside his home.
“After 9 p.m. they go nuts and start rummaging through garbage cans,” he said. “Sometimes when you take the trash out at night, they run over your feet.”
Ahamed Saleem, who lives and works on Nassau Avenue, said he steps on the rats when he sees them in the streets at night.
“It’s like Tom and Jerry,” he said. “People are frightened walking in the streets. We would like to see the city do something about it.”
The rat squad will remain in the area until the problem diminishes, said Lentol, who has also called on the city to minimize alternate side parking regulations for residents affected by the reconstruction project.
“This should have been a problem that could have been dealt with without having to call out the National Guard, in this case the rat squad,” Lentol said. “[But] I am confident that the rat squad will put it under control and continue to deal with it.”
Some business owners, however, said they have not observed the influx of rats in the area.
“As construction moves, rats are going to keep moving,” said Jezeil Alrubar, manager of April Candy Grocery on Nassau Avenue. He added that rats have not been a problem in his store, and he isn’t concerned.
But other owners are worried about the long-term effects on their businesses.
“I understand we live in the city and the construction is for good, but it is affecting business,” said Ania Siemieniaka, owner of Freckle Skin and Hair, who has advertised more promotions recently to keep her business attractive to clients. “The city should be taking care of it and step up big time.”
The project includes reconstruction of water mains, catch basins, sewers, sidewalks, and pedestrian ramps.
“I think this is a necessary construction project,” said Christine Counihan, a resident of Newel Street. “I have not seen an increase in any kind of rodents at all.”
But Lubera said he sets up traps each day because he has seen rats in the basement, his backyard, and in the engine compartment of his car. The rats even chewed through the wires in his wife’s car, he said.
“We are trying to get the city to come by and exterminate more often,” Lubera said. “They say they will twice a month, which I don’t think will make a difference. Everybody is getting fed up now. It’s getting worse rather than better.”