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June 30, 2007 / Park Slope / Perspective / PS … I Love You

Rats! Nica is hot and bothered

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A few weeks ago I wrote all my favorite things about Park Slope in the summer. But there is one thing about the summer that I hate: Rats.

Last year I saw a rat on my street. One rat. And I had a fit. I screamed and ran inside to call 311. I made a rat report based on the solo spotting of the critter, and I never saw him again. Maybe 311 really works!

According to an old urban myth, there is one rat for each person in New York City. Although this statistic is called into question by researchers every so often, the city’s own Department of Health cites the one-rat-per-person statistic at times.

So what does that mean for us here in Park Slope? Well, it means that there are a lot of rats. And in the warm months, the rat population surges and gets fatter, bigger and bolder.

The biggest problem in rat control is the garbage. Dirty streets and trashy parks equal a big rat smorgasbord (remember the song in the original “Charlotte’s Web” cartoon, with Wilbur the rat singing — in Paul Lynde’s voice — about the garbage at the fair?). And let’s face it, we could all be neater with our waste.

The city will come out and bait the rats, if you call 311 and let the Health Department know that your street has a problem. Baiting is a nice word for poisoning, and that means that you will have some kind of nasty rat killing chemical in your area. But at least you won’t have rats.

The real problem is that the rat control issue is a two-sided sword: on the one hand, the city must bait and try to quell population surges. On the other hand, residents have to contain their garbage, keep it covered at all time (which we cannot do on trash pick up days because Sanitation won’t take the trash if the lid is not off) and be super vigilant about the cleanliness of our streets and backyards (even feeding the birds is not a good idea: rats eat the bird seed).

But how do you get all your neighbors to be super vigilant about garbage? It can be difficult, but education is the best bet in the rat situation. Once people are doing their part, it will be easier to get the city to do its part. If the Health Department comes out and sees trash all over your street, the agency is going to tell you that it is your problem. If the street is clean, the city will have to take responsibility for baiting. When both the individual and the city are working in sync, you might see a decline in the rat population.

Rats are a part of life in all of New York, but with cooperation between neighbors and with the city doing its part, they might be able to be kept in check.

The rat on my street has not shown himself yet this year, and with any luck (and with my help keeping my street clean) maybe he never will.

The Kitchen Sink

The memorial fund created in the name of Evelyn Ortner, an early leader in the Brownstone Brooklyn preservation effort who died last year, will benefit Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. The fund has already had many big-name donors helping out, including novelists Jhumpa Lahiri (“The Namesake”) and Jennifer Egan (“The Keep”). It’s raised $22,000 already. …

Kudos to Norman Oder, who just won a community service award from the Park Slope Civic Council. Oder’s Web site, the Atlantic Yards Report, has scooped us a few times and we’re big enough to offer the guy best wishes. He’s also a great tour guide, by the way. Kim Maier of the Old Stone House got the other award. …

Community Board 6 finally voted in favor of a bike lane plan for Ninth Street. The 17-14 vote was closer than anticipated, but the result was expected. The Department of Transportation said the Ninth Street plan — which will remove one lane of traffic in each direction in favor of a bike lane and left-turn bays — will go into effect in July. Happy pedaling! …

Wanna get into government at the ground floor? Community Board 6 is looking for an office manager who will report to District Manager Craig Hammerman. E-mail Hammerman at districtmanager@brooklyncb6.org.

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