NEW YORK — Officials in New York City are calling for a publicly financed program to bait, kill and remove rats in the wake of reports that Hurricane Sandy sent droves of the rodents scurrying inland, with many of them taking up residence in new neighborhoods.
Councilwoman Jessica Lappin, whose district includes the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island, said she had been told of “alarming reports” about rat outbreaks. She has heard complaints of businesses having to shut down because of rodent-related health department violations, and of concern over what people perceive as more rats on the streets.
“As New Yorkers, we have a certain level of tolerance for rats,” Lappin said. “But this is real public health issue, and people are rightly concerned.”
Lappin, with support from the City Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, has called for the city to hire additional pest control aides to conduct a six-month remediation program, at no additional cost to property owners. Lappin estimated that the program would cost $500,000, based on a similar city effort in 2011 in the parks.
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Lappin said her office recently conducted an analysis of rodent complaints from several shoreline neighborhoods in Manhattan and Brooklyn to the city’s 311 hot line, and found an uptick in the months after the storm.
Residents in neighborhoods of the Lower East Side, Lower Manhattan, Greenpoint, Coney Island, and Carroll Gardens/Red Hook filed 70 more complaints over the same time period last year.
The most calls came from the Lower East Side, to 123 calls so far this year, from 102 calls during the same time last year. Lower Manhattan’s total more than doubled, to 16 calls from seven calls.
Lappin said she had reached out to the health commissioner, with hopes that the program can start as soon as possible.
“In these communities that were hard-hit, where not everybody is even back in their homes, and communities where we’ve seen upticks where people are struggling, that’s where we should be spending our resources,” Lappin said. “Not in ticketing people, but the city should be doing some treatment and remediation.”
Since the storm, Timothy Wong, a managing partner with M&M Environment, a pest-control company, said business has been brisk.
Wong said the company started the week with 33 emergency calls from people throughout the city complaining about rodents, which he described as an unusually high number for a single day. “It’s just gotten so bad,” Wong said. “So many calls. It’s just crazy.” One client, a family in Harlem, he said, abandoned their home for a hotel over the weekend, until his company could come out on Monday.
Aside from the storm, Wong cited cold weather and trashy construction sites as factors driving rodents indoors.
“There’s so much debris and garbage,” he said, “and rats are having a field day.”