Rat’s gross! Sunset Park residents fed up with rat infestation

Photo courtesy of Fred Manas

Rats are infesting the streets of Sunset Park, according to 50th Street residents, who claim the critters are scurrying across occupied stoops and chewing their way through concrete on a daily basis.

“Rats are walking across our stoop just oblivious to us sitting there,” said Fred Manas, a 32-year resident of the neighborhood. “They just hop house to house looking for open trash bins.”

A rat hiding underneath a bench in Sunset Park.Photo courtesy of Fred Manas

The neighbors say the problem dates back to 2017, when the reopening of the made-over 53rd and 59th street subway stations drove the rodents to their block — a part of the rodent’s route to restaurant-rich Fifth Avenue from commercially-dominant Fourth Avenue.

“The rat problem over the last three years has gotten abysmal,” Manas said. “By opening up the subway they let all the rats out … with Fifth Avenue one block away, where do you think they are going for free food?”

Calls to 311 and the area’s elected representatives have proved futile, residents claim, and the problem has only worsened since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, when alternative side parking rules were brought to a halt and much of the city’s sanitation programs underwent severe cuts. 

“It has become exacerbated by the slowdown in trash pickups, in cleanings … due to the pandemic,” Manas said. “There is nothing happening on the city-side.” 

Residents say illegal food vendors who dispose of their trash in the city’s receptacles and neighbors who don’t properly contain their garbage also compound the issue. 

“It’s all just food for the rats,” Manas said. 

Another neighbor, Alexandra De Mesones, said she has had to pay out of her own pocket to repair the damage wrought by the relentless rodents as they attempted to break into her trash cans by chewing through her concrete and burrowing into her stoop. 

“Pieces of brownstone were broken and scattered, cracks were opening,” said De Mesones, whose home has been in her family since 1946. “The rats were trying to get in, trying to break through from under the ground.” 

Damage from rats chewing through the concrete.Photo by Alexandra De Mesones

And despite her efforts, it is business as usual for the rats who are again chewing holes in her concrete, she said.

“Right after he finished closing up the hole, they reopened it,” De Mesones said. “The main hole is reopened.”

Assemblymember Felix Ortiz told Brooklyn Paper that, while he has been working diligently to rid his district of the rodents, the issue can be tricky as rats are an inevitable nuisance on most construction sites in New York City.

“When [the MTA] started all the construction and movement inside the subway stations to rebuild, that is when all this momentum of rats began to run all over the place,” Ortiz said, adding that the agency can’t poison the vermin “because they don’t know where they are going to bite.”

The 25-year assemblyman, representing Brooklyn’s 51st District, said discussions with related agencies were tabled during the pandemic, but he will raise the issue with Mayor Bill de Blasio as early as Tuesday. 

“I am going to probably see the mayor at some point today and I will mention it again to his people,” Ortiz said. 

A representative from the city Department of Health said they plan to reinspect the block in the coming days, while a spokesman for the MTA told Brooklyn Paper a station manager immediately investigated the rat situation and did not observe any rodents at either station. 

“The Health Department has received complaints on this block and performed inspections,” said Michael Lanza. “We will return to the block in the coming days to respond to additional complaints and perform compliance inspections on previously failing properties.”

Councilman Carlos Menchaca did not respond to requests for comment.