Rat school is in session as fed-up New Yorkers try to learn how to deal with a surging rodent population.
Rats as big as bunnies are roaming the streets in broad daylight, nesting in trees and chewing through car engine wires that can cost thousands to fix. And there are so many that residents are kvetching about them every chance they get: Complaints about rats to the 311 hotline have totaled 12,632 so far this year, a third more than the 9,042 for all of 2019.
With the Upper West Side teeming with the hungry critters, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal and the city Health Department sponsored the latest incarnation of “Rat Academy,” two hours of rat prevention training livestreamed Tuesday to nearly four dozen supers, tenants and homeowners. The city began such training sessions about 10 years ago.
Gail Dubov, president of the West 83rd Street Block Association, has a “Ph.D in Rat Academy” from sitting in on a couple of sessions, including Tuesday’s. “Rats are devious,” she pronounced with authority, “and they’re smart.”
Dozens who belong to Upper West Siders for Safer Streets have posted their sightings of gargantuan vermin on Facebook, including Melanie Sloan, whose daughter is Scarlett Johansson.
“Central Park is overrun with huge fat rats,” Sloan wrote. “I saw a man on a bench in the rambles swatting them unsuccessfully with a rake.”
Not a day goes by that Amanda Levine doesn’t see at least one rat. She sprays her Jeep Grand Cherokee with a cocktail of cinnamon and mint oils and water — under the hood and on all four wheel bearings — to ward off the critters. In her apartment complex, at 107th Street between Amsterdam and Broadway, her neighbors tell her they hear scratching behind the walls.
Levine ticks off four reasons why she thinks rats have invaded the UWS: outdoor dining, more homeless New Yorkers, shoddy street cleaning and the biggest — trash not being picked up often enough, both from the cans on sidewalk corners and the stacks of bags hauled to the curb by building supers.
The Department of Sanitation is responsible for both street cleaning and garbage collection. Spokesman Joshua Goodman told The Post that DSNY is committed to keeping the city clean and reducing the rat population.
“Only when residents, businesses, and the City work together can we address a problem that is as old and as persistent as the City of New York itself,” Goodman said.
As far as Levine is concerned, the only one to blame is Mayor Bill de Blasio. Not in the 20 years she has lived on the block have rats been so thick.
She is convinced that Hizzoner wants to do away with the Sanitation Department: “He’s a f–king waste. He’s turned this city into a s—hole.”
City Hall denied the notion. “The mayor clearly does not want to ‘get rid’ of the Sanitation Department,” de Blasio spokesman Mitch Schwartz told The Post. “I can’t imagine where anyone would get that impression.”
Dalia Schwalb was traumatized by a gang of 10 to 15 rats outside the 96th Street subway stop last Sunday night.
“You used to see the rats … on the tracks,” she said. “Now they are literally part of the neighborhood. They should pay rent.”
She compared her encounter to the invasion scene from the movie “Ratatouille.”
“We need the Guardian Angels for the rats. I need them to be gone.”