Rats! Atlantic Yards site is full of rodents

Rats! Atlantic Yards site is full of rodents
Photo by Wayne Bailey

Neighbors of the Atlantic Yards project say that freakish, cat-sized rats coming from the construction site are invading their homes, gnawing on their cars, eating through garbage cans, and climbing up their legs.

“We don’t have a normal rat problem — we have a rat tsunami!” said Karen-Ida Scott, a resident of Dean Street near Sixth Avenue. “This is way beyond anything that can be handled with individual complaints. We’re way past that.”

Residents blamed the infestation on developer Forest City Ratner’s construction work in the Vanderbilt Yards, which will house the Barclays Center for the Brooklyn-bound Nets next fall.

Locals want developer Bruce Ratner to set bait beyond the perimeter of the construction site and buy high-neck metal garbage cans for their streets. Such cans are about $500 apiece, a minor expense for a developer of a $4.9-billion project. For instance, buying 20 of them would be a microscopic 0.0002 percent of the project’s cost.

A company spokesman would not comment on the trash receptacles, but said that the company has had a rodent control plan in place for two years that involves hiring an exterminator and setting and checking bait traps.

“We have had an abatement plan in place since before construction started and we will continue to revisit the program to assess the impact,” Joe DePlasco said.

The Atlantic Yards mega-project — delayed for years by financing troubles and lawsuits filed by community opposition — includes the under-construction basketball arena and up to 16 residential and office towers, though everything but the arena is on hold.

Since early 2006, Forest City Ratner has demolished more than 50 buildings to make room for the project, according to DePlasco.

In 2007, the developer started excavating the site at Flatbush and Atlantic avenues to make room for the arena — and that’s when residents say their rat troubles began.

The Barclays Center construction, which began last year, has only exacerbated the problem.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said that the department saw an increase in 311 complaints and increased its exterminations significantly in the ZIP codes on and near the project.

The department increased its bait applications from 190 in fiscal year 2010 to 313 in 2011 for the area directly around the arena.

To the east of the arena, bait applications jumped from 179 in 2010 to a whopping 501 in 2011.

For Dean Street resident Deborah Howard, a solution to the rodents can’t come soon enough.

“I’ve lived here for 15 years,” said Howard, 58. “There was no rat problem before Ratner started tearing down the buildings.”

Since last August, she’s dodged monster-rats just to get into her house. The rodents even dragged bones and food into the engine of her car.

Another neighbor, John Martinez, said that he leaves his car in Park Slope to prevent the vermin from chewing through his insulation.

The neighborhood testimony is the stuff of horror movies, but locals are worried that as summer drags on it will only get worse.

And by worse, they mean, of course, the hantavirus.

Last week, the extremely rare rat-borne lung infection — caused by microbes found in rodent droppings, saliva or urine — killed a 35-year-old Long Island man. It was the state’s second death from hantavirus pulmonary syndrome since 1995.

And the Greenpoint Gazette reported that a Manhattan Avenue man was forced to euthanize his 4-year-old dog this month after it contracted leptospirosis, a rare disease caused by contact with infected rat urine. The disease can be transferred from animals to humans.

Arana Hankin, the state’s director for Atlantic Yards, said that she doesn’t have the authority to require Ratner set bait beyond the site, but that she would ask the Department of Health to look into it.

Scores of residents said that they’ve been sending complaints to 311 for the past year, but they get no results — and they’re probably right because the state agency that oversees the project does not get data from city 311 complaints.

To Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene), this is just more evidence that additional oversight is needed.

Rodent complaints near the Atlantic Yards site should be addressed to [email protected].