Rats! Red Hook vendors may have caused Gowanus rodent problem

They may be delighting customers in Red Hook, but the Latino food vendors are causing indigestion in Gowanus.

That’s because many of the vendors park their food trucks overnight in a lot on Bond and Union streets, across from a row of residential homes — and when those trucks pull in, the area’s rodent population loosens its belt.

“We never had rats before the vendors starting parking there,” said longtime Bond Street resident Paola Defonis. “But they’re all over the block now.”

Improper truck cleaning and trash storage is the root of the problem, she said.

The vendors kicked off their season on Saturday, offering a veritable cornucopia of Latin fare. But it appears that gran ratas also has a taste for tacos and tamales.

Defonis caught one monstrous beast on tape, capturing it as it blithely sauntered through her backyard in broad daylight. She said that she’s also seen two or more of the creatures engaged in what scientists call social play behavior.

“They were playing like cats,” she recalled, adding that they show no fear of humans during their rambunctious rodent hijinks — or any other time.

Parking lot manager Mohamed Gamil said the problem has nothing to do with maintenance at the lot. “It’s not us — the canal is right there,” he said, stretching an arm towards the fetid Gowanus. “It’s the whole neighborhood. They come from everywhere.”

Even so, Gamil said the lot recently hired a different exterminator — after health inspectors issued a warning.

“We did a lot of things, plugging all the holes,” he said, adding that lot workers have been making an effort to better handle trash. “Even if you come at nighttime now, you won’t see any rats,” he claimed.

Cesar Fuentes, the executive director of the Food Vendors Committee of Red Hook Park, said the lots where vendors choose to park are regulated and have their own protocols in terms of maintenance and clean-up.

“Unfortunately, rodent infestation is inherent to city life,” Fuentes said. “It’s a shared concern, as everyone has a bit of responsibility, whether it’s better upkeep by the building owner or property maintenance and extermination.”