The state has unleashed a legion of beady-eyed rats on New Utrecht Avenue that are running through garbage, getting hit by cars, and even invading houses, say neighbors who believe that construction beneath the 79th Street station of the D line caused the plague.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority began digging up the sections of sidewalk on New Utrecht Avenue around the columns supporting the tracks from Fort Hamilton Parkway to Coney Island two years ago and now, many of the holes have become easily accessible trash-pits that neighbors say attract rats.
“At night, there are 30 to 40 rats walking down the block like it belongs to them. It’s horrible,” said John Lopez, who runs a bakery on 17th Avenue between 78th and 79th streets. “We’ve never had these kinds of problems before they started doing this work.”
The rodential scourge has spread to residential blocks, where Cathy SantoPietro says that her family has dumped more than $10,000 into construction and extermination costs in a failed bid to bolster the borders of her 80th Street home.
SantoPietro said that her family — maddened by the sound of scampering within its walls, and the smell of rotting rat corpses left behind when poison bait takes effect — had to hire contractors to dig up the backyard to look for holes in the foundation. They’ve sealed up every crack they could find, she said, but the rats keep coming.
“It’s been emotionally and financially a big burden on our life,” said SantoPietro. “How would you like to be living with maggots and flies and hearing rats in the walls — then, when you tear the walls down and put them back up, the rats are still there?”
SantoPietro said that she has called every city agency and politician she can think of, but so far, nothing has happened — because everyone keeps passing the buck.
“They told us that they were going to contact the Department of Health,” said SantoPietro. “We received a call three weeks later and they said that they didn’t find rats and they referred it to the MTA.”
But so far, the MTA has done nothing about it, she said.
“They should be handling the rat situation in one way or another,” she said. “We need to get to the bottom of this and someone should be liable to pay us back the $10,000.”
An MTA spokesman confirmed that there is a rat problem in the area, but wouldn’t admit blame, and did not respond to additional questions about what was being done about the scourge.
“We are aware of the situation. At this point, we cannot verify if the rodent problem is a result of work being done to rehabilitate the West End D line in that area,” said MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz.
Rodent experts said that since rats live underground, it is possible that the construction riled up a nest — but it could be because of increased garbage around the construction sites.
“The live in burrows underground, in buildings, garbage, anything that’s storage,” said Anthony Gilberti, of Xpress Termite and Pest Control. “There’s more of a rat situation because people throw their garbage on the floor now.”
But SantoPietro said that garbage has always been on the streets in her neighborhood — but rats have never been this bad before.
“I’ve been there for 41 years,” she said. “There had to be something that stirred them up. There is some reason why the rats all started swarming the neighborhood.”
The MTA normally uses poison to kill rats in the subway system, but the full deadly effect can sometimes take days, said Gilberti.
“It can take two to five days,” he said. “The problem with poison is the rats could die right there, for 100 feet away in your walls.”Reach reporter Dan MacLeod at dmacleod@c