Categorized | Education, Harlem

Harlem dubbed Manhattan’s rat capital


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A rat lurking in a Manhattan subway track. Photo AP

Is Northattan’s famous Harlem the borough’s “rattiest” neighborhood?

It all depends on which one of three recent, decidedly unscientific, polls you want to believe.

Poll Number 1, unveiled in a press release from the pest control company d-CON, claimed that Harlem has stolen the title of Manhattan’s “rattiest” neighborhood from the Lower East Side.

D-Con based that conclusion on interviews with a mere 200 of Manhattan’s 1.6 million residents, and the company didn’t say how it chose those it interviewed.  Still, an impressive 24 percent of the d-CON respondents fingered Harlem as the Rat Capital, followed by the Lower East Side and Northattan’s Washington Heights.

Poll Number 2 comes from State Senator Bill Perkins of Harlem, who recently published Have You Seen a Rat Today?, another unscientific survey distributed to 15,000 residents through mail, email and in person at subway stations in Manhattan’s 30th senatorial district.  Nearly 90 percent of the 5,000 respondents who reported to Perkins said that they have seen a rat on a daily, or at least, weekly, basis in subway stations in the district.

That was hardly news to Harlem resident Jesus Vasquez.  “There are a lot of rats in the trains, but everybody knows that,” he said.  Vasquez said he’s battled his own rat problem in his apartment on 147th Street and Broadway, claiming victory after poison put the kibosh on the critters.

But do daily sightings of rats make Harlem Manhattan’s rattiest neighborhood?

Not according to Poll Number 3, this one from nyc.gov, which recently issued its annual rodent complaint report showing that the largest number of monthly rat complaints is actually in Manhattan’s Community Board 2 – which encompasses Greenwich Village, SoHo and other neighborhoods.  Harlem came in number two.

The city’s survey also found that many other neighborhoods in Manhattan are besieged by rats.  The City Health Department is combating the problem with new tactics: rather than large exterminating efforts, rodent infestations are pinpointed by canvassing areas with particular problems and  focusing efforts on them.

Some say Harlem’s rat problem can be directly attributed to the neighborhood’s constant construction.

“If you open up an area, the rats have nowhere to go so they’re going to run into other buildings for shelter,” said Rob, a construction worker at a site near the 125th Street number 1 subway line, who declined to give his last name.

When Senator Perkins released Have You Seen a Rat Today? he proposed a ban on eating and drinking on the subway, similar to policies enforced on Washington D.C.  and Chicago transit systems.

“What we know for sure is the rats are not growing the food they are eating, nor are they shopping at Whole Foods or McDonald’s,” Perkins said in an interview with The New York Times.

Perkins mailed the results of the survey to the Metropolitan Transportation Administration, urging the agency to make the rodent problem in city subways a priority.  To date, MTA has had no official response.

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