As Mayor Bill de Blasio wages a war of attrition against the rats of Lower Manhattan, residents of the Upper West Side are worried the city is abandoning its northwestern flank as the rats close in on their children. In parks across the neighborhood, the Wall Street Journal reports, gangs of rats have been seen "boldly jumping" into strollers, occupying critical water resources, and laying waste to the area's remaining supply of organic cheesy puffs.
They were very excited when some kids shared what seems to be organic cheese puffs with them: pic.twitter.com/SYg7twFLZe
— Mariana Alfaro (@marianaa_alfaro) August 8, 2017
While the rats have raided several public areas between Riverside Drive and Central Park, they seem to have established a fortress at Diana Ross playground, according to Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal. "The issue is how brazen they are," Rosenthal told Gothamist. "The rats rule that playground. They're running the joint, and parents and children can't be there."
The strategic problem facing the neighborhood, Rosenthal says, is that conventional rodenticide poses a risk to the local hawks that live in the area. With tensions escalating, the assemblywoman is urging the city to fill the playgrounds' rat burrows with dry ice—a method of rodent eradication recently recognized by the EPA, but not yet approved by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. "It's not like the rat is choking," the assemblywoman promises. "They just go to sleep and don't get up. It's effective, it's cheap, it's what we need."
Meanwhile, Mayor de Blasio, who says he once came face-to-snout with one of the beasts in an Upper East Side park, promises that "We're kind to rats. We just want them to go away." His $32 million Neighborhood Rat Reduction plan, unveiled last month, involves replacing wired trash cans with big belly steel cans, increasing trash pick up, and requiring certain buildings to curb their trash after 4 a.m. on garbage days.
But to the disappointment of Rosenthal and many of her constituents, those measures only impact areas that the city has designated as particularly rat-heavy: Chinatown, the Lower East Side, and East Village in Manhattan; the Grand Concourse section of the Bronx; and Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn. While city councilmembers, local parks officials, and the Department of Health have helped mount similar trash campaigns in the Upper West Side, Rosenthal says the problem will continue unless drastic action is taken.
"The City must invest Neighborhood Rat Remediation resources in my district now so my constituents and their families can play safely in our public parks," Rosenthal declared in an email this week. Until then, Upper West Siders are urged to remain calm but on the lookout for jumping rats.
Neither the mayor's office nor the leader of the warrior rats responded to a request for comment.
UPDATE: Reached for comment, City Hall spokesperson Olivia Lapeyrolerie told Gothamist: "We are committed to reducing rat activity in NYC, and have 2 rat reservoir programs in the Upper West. 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. Once this is complete, the City will review the plan’s impact and discuss expansion to other zones.”