The rat problem in the Upper West Side's Verdi Square, once called Needle Park, has gotten so bad that recently the Parks Dept. called for back-up. "We have sent an extra staff person there in the early morning and later in the day," said Cristina DeLuca, a spokeswoman from the Parks Dept. "The park is now being cleaned as much as three times a day to address the rodent issues." Still, neighborhood residents say the rats are part of their routine. "If you clap your hands at night they all jump out of the bushes," said Rob Hafferman, who lives nearby. It turns out, the rodents have not gone undocumented.

In 1987 Verdi Square, then popularly called Needle Park, was a hang-out for drug dealers (1971's "The Panic in Needle Park" stars a young Al Pacino as a scag-hustling junkie) and homeless people. Also rats. That year the Times wrote "scattered pigeon food, such as bread crumbs and corn, has also attracted rats, and notices of rat poison placed by the Parks Department are posted on the square's trees."

A subway renovation in 2000 brought more rodents to the surface: "As if lured by some modern-day Pied Piper, they have burrowed holes around the statue of Giuseppe Verdi in the center of the park...lately the rat problem has grown worse. Some residents, who say the rats are bigger and bolder, have taken to calling the park Vermin Square," reported the Times. ''Forget poison,'' added the president of the West 74th Street Block Association. ''Send someone out with a gun. They walk around like they own a condo here.'' Despite a "rodenticide program," the rats persisted.

Today, according to City Councilwoman Gale Brewer, Verdi Square is as dirty as ever. "The park is filthy and the trash is particularly apparent in the morning rush hour when people go to the subway," she wrote in a complaint to the Parks Department. In addition to trash pick-up, a crew lays down rat poison routinely, and two-week ago it upped the dosage. Rat-proof garbage bags are its latest precaution, reports DNAinfo, though like all those that came before, the gnaw-proof sacks are unlikely to stop the ever-resourceful rodents.