Unwelcome rats overrun neighborhood in Bayside

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Baysiders living near the intersection of 36th Avenue and 201st Street have been repeating the same exclamation lately: Rats!

Neighbors say the intersection has been overrun with rodents over the last few weeks, and although they do not know what caused the critters to descend upon their block, they’ve been telling the city Health Department that the new visitors are not welcome.

“It’s disgusting,” said Laura Hickey, a 36th Avenue resident who has complained to the city about the problem. “You don’t want to sit in your backyard. When you walk down the street, you see rats running by.”

Hickey, who found six dead rats in one weekend, said the agency had told her it would be at least three weeks before an inspector could be sent to the area.

Health Department spokesman Greg Butler said the department had two complaints on record about the problem, and that inspectors were scheduled to visit the intersection this week, possibly as early as Wednesday.

“We do our best to reply within a few weeks,” said Butler.

Patrick Vecchione, who has lived on 36th Avenue for 25 years, said he has never seen anything like the current rodent problem.

Vecchione said he had found about two dozen dead rats in the last week, and even more live ones scampering around nearby catch basins.

“They were running around with impunity,” he said.

Vecchione said he made his complaint to the Health Department more than two weeks ago. Since then, a neighbor has put rat poison down a particularly troublesome series of rat tunnels dug into some grass above a 201st Street catch basin, and the dead rats have been generating a smell that Vecchione called “unbelievab­le.”

Neighbor Chris McHugh said his biggest find so far was a dead rat “the size of a grapefruit.”

Live rats have brought even more concern, with children passing the intersection of 36th Avenue and 201st Street on a regular basis to attend the nearby PS 130 and Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament school.

Butler would not speculate on the cause of the rat problem at the Bayside intersection, but said rodents usually emerge from their winter hideouts as the weather warms up.

An increase in construction work during the spring and summer months also tends to disturb rodent habitats, making them more visible, said Butler.

Neighbors interviewed Monday did not know why the rat population had suddenly surged in the area but said recent construction on either a gas or sewer main on 201st Street was not the likely cause.

“They did a dig on the street, but the rat hole was there prior to the dig,” Vecchione said.

Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:15 pm, October 10, 2011
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