RATS TRIFECTA: Neighbors say litterbugs + city + MTA = rodents

The MTA covered up some construction sites on New Utrecht Avenue — like this one at 62nd Street — in an attempt to curb littering and stop the occurence of rats that follow. But the move hasn’t improved littering at all.
Community Newspaper Group / Dan MacLeod

A perfect storm of selfish litterbugs, a construction project moving at a snail’s pace, and the removal of public garbage cans in Bensonhurst has turned New Utrecht Avenue into a litter-strewn rodent magnet, say residents who are demanding the MTA put the rehabilitation of the D line on the fast track so they can finally get some relief.

Construction on the elevated railroad above the avenue between 67th and 79th streets — which has resulted in pits being dug around the base of stanchions, which, in turn, resulted in the removal of 16 city garbage cans along the strip — has been going on for more than two years, and now residents and merchants are demanding the state finally get the job done so they can have a cleaner street back.

“I think the city needs to put a hot pepper up [the workers’ rear-ends],” said Angel Maza, who owns a deli between 62nd and 65th streets. “[Pedestrians] wouldn’t litter in the columns if the workers did their jobs.”

When we contacted the Department of Sanitation about the missing cans, an agency spokesman told us that the city would reinstall them on Tuesday.

The MTA admitted that some pits have been open for two years as work on the stanchions slowly progressed.

“Certain problems take longer to fix because of the number of inspections and the manufacturing of replacement parts,” said spokeswoman Deirdre Parker.

And the city says that it has removed the litter baskets in the area because of the ongoing work, so litterbugs have been tossing trash in the pits.

Hursters have been complaining for weeks that the construction has been attracting garbage and rats, so last week, the MTA hung netting above the holes to keep garbage from going into the pits.

And that’s partly worked — the pedestrians’ garbage isn’t getting in the holes anymore, it’s sitting atop the nets, which is upsetting to homeowners living nearby.

“They put a Band-Aid on the wound,” said Cathy SantoPietro, whose owns a house around the corner from the construction that has become overrun with vermin. “It’s a disgrace.”

But the MTA says it’s not its fault that people are slobs.

“The rats are attracted by the garbage that is being thrown into our construction areas, not by the work itself,” said Parker.

Another agency spokesman said that construction workers were even picking up after dumpers.

“The contractors clean the areas as often as possible, but we need the public’s help [and we are] asking that these safety enclosures not be used as trash receptacles,” said spokesman Charles Seaton.

Merchants along the strip agreed that passersby should take care of the trash, but they reserved most of their scorn for the MTA’s slow progress on the $230-million project.

“The city creates these big holes and they become dumping areas,” said one store owner, who would only identify himself as Phil. “There is tons of [trash] and tons of rats all over the place — hundreds of rats every night.”

Reach reporter Dan MacLeod at dmacleod@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow his tweets at twitter.com/dsmacleod.

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