Volume 17 • Issue 12 / August 13 - 19, 2004



Only way to control B.P.C. rats may be starvation

By David H. Ellis

They might not be chasing joggers along the esplanade or overrunning the lawns at Rockefeller Park, but rats are a persistent problem in Battery Park City, according to complaints from residents.

A Battery Park City parent who brings her children to Rockefeller Park reports seeing rats nightly.

“They come out every evening at dusk without fail,” said Abby Latour.

One particular night she set up a picnic blanket on the lawn and had unexpected guests for dinner.

“They started darting about,” Latour said. “When they came within 3 ft. of us, we shouted and they darted back into the bushes.”

“I’ve seen rats two or three times,” said Ricky Wong, a car-service driver who was stationed along North End Ave. to pick up fares. Standing next to his silver Lincoln Continental, he pointed to a section of sidewalk several feet away, the location of his most recent evening encounters. “I don’t live here, but I wouldn’t expect to see it here in this kind of neighborhood.”

Although every block of Manhattan is forced to constantly wrestle with this issue, warning signs, such as rat burrow holes, as well as a number of recent sightings near Rockefeller Park and a flurry of complaints from B.P.C. residents, have forced the hand of the Battery Park City Authority, making the Authority take preventative measures.

In a recent parks conservancy newsletter, despite downplaying the severity of the problem, the B.P.C. announced a consultation with Dr. Stephen Frantz, a professor of environmental health and toxicology at SUNY-Albany and an expert in pest control.

“There have not been a lot of calls from residents, which is good [because it indicates there is not] a significant problem,” said Jim Cavanaugh, chief operating officer of B.P.C.A. “Some staff, though, think they are noticing the beginnings of an increase in the [rat] population.”

Although the number of pest complaints lodged by B.P.C. residents to the city Department of Health was not available as of press time, the heavy construction activity along North End Ave. is the most likely culprit in the rat population spike, said Anthony Notaro, chairperson of Community Board 1’s Battery Park City Committee.

“With all that construction I’m sure they’re stirring up the pot,” said Notaro. “I noticed it was worse a couple months ago in the southern part of Battery Park City, but I really can’t speak towards the north neighborhood — I haven’t heard anything.”

There have also been sightings of rats at Wagner Park to the south.
B.P.C.’s location only hinders the effort to eradicate the problem. The rodents benefit from being located next to the Hudson River, which supplies an unlimited water source, and the over 30 acres of parks provide them shelter. Also, the Authority relies on a “green” approach, restricting the use of pesticides. As a result, Frantz recommended restricting the rodents’ food source — which, according to Cavanaugh, will require a large preventative effort.

“As long as we deny them food, they will be under control,” Cavanaugh said. “We are making sure construction companies clean up worksites and we are also working with building management companies to make sure they are not putting garbage out the night before, otherwise it becomes a tremendous problem.”

On a recent afternoon, Dick Monday, a resident of Battery Park City, sat inside the playground at Rockefeller Park, watching his children. Even though he had only visited this section of the park a few times, Monday said he was not scared off by neighbors’ accounts of the vermin and would likely keep returning to the playground.

“Unless they were attacking small children, I’d probably stay,” he said. “If you live in New York, what’s new?”



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