How bad are the rats in Brooklyn Heights? Some residents are hitting the streets, and taking matters into their own hands.
One man — call him The Rat Hunter — is even resorting to violence!
“I’ve used an air gun with pellets to hit them,” said The Rat Hunter, who refused to be named for fear of legal repercussions (it is illegal to torture animals, even ones that not even a mother could love). “There are so many of them, it’s like urban hunting.”
The Rat Hunter also confessed to flushing out a rat burrow with a water hose. Might not sound too inhumane, except when the rats emerged in search of dry ground.
“I was hacking them to pieces with a machete in a public garden,” he said with a smirk. “But we never had a rat problem again.”
Many long-standing locals attribute the rodent population surge to the $2.5-million Promenade renovation in 2001.
The construction “disturbed the nests and drove them towards the buildings,” said Charlie Anderson, a Brooklyn Heights doorman of 14 years. “It was then that I began to notice them. It took about 18 months for our building alone to get them under control with snap traps and bait boxes.”
While buildings successfully waged individual wars against infestation, the rats moved to more fruitful terrain — public parks and garbage cans.
“Suddenly the rats realized that the only garbage bags still sitting on the ground are those in the city trashcans,” said Quintana. “The residents may have wised up, but it doesn’t mean much if the city doesn’t follow.’
The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has been spreading poison. Several trees on Columbia Heights, as well as in Cadman Plaza Park, are now marked with signs stating that poison is in the area and recommending that dogs (and children) be kept away.
The vague markers on the north end of Columbia Heights in the fruit streets sitting area are taped to four of six trees. There is no explanation of whether the poison was applied to only those trees, or if the signs are meant to indicate there’s poison in the entire neighborhood.
It’s impossible to decipher the answer just from looking. And considering the DOH didn’t return my calls, it seems I’m not going to find the answer there either.
“Those signs are just the city’s way of covering its a– if your dog eats rat poison,” said Jeanine Croix, who was visiting the Hillside Dog Park across the street from the signs. “It’s totally haphazard.”
Whether or not the city has a plan beyond throwing down some poison and up some signs, for now these plague purveyors have some serious verve.
“The rats are getting more brave every year,” said Javier Quintana, a nine-year resident. “I’ve seen some the size of small dogs cruising down the Promenade. But now they’re emerging before dusk. When they’re hungry, they’re hungry.”
The Brooklyn Heights rats are currently living large. While the city should install bigger, more enclosed trash cans, residents and visitors alike need to do all they can to deny these midnight marauders of a food source.
Until then, “the rats are still dancing in the street,” said Anderson. “Every night I see them checking out garbage.”
In 2001, “No one wanted to talk about it,” he said. “We didn’t know everyone had the same problem.”
This time around, no one is keeping quiet.
“We’re seeing domesticated dogs going after them in broad daylight,” said Sasha Freeman, who frequently takes her Labrador retriever to Cadman Plaza Park.
“At that point, someone’s gotta acknowledge that we have a problem.”
Here’s the problem as far as I’m concerned: There’s only one Rat Hunter in the neighborhood!
Juliana Bunim is a writer who lives in Brooklyn Heights.
The Kitchen Sink
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