Streams

Rats! Lower Manhattan Subway Lines Infested

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

About half of the subway tracks running through Lower Manhattan have serious rat problems, according to health department officials. The department conducted a study of 58 tracks that run south of Canal Street in the 18 stations they pass through. The study found that 28 tracks has serious infestations

The rats are drawn to refuse rooms where MTA employees store waste, sometimes for days at a time. The rodents treat the refuse rooms like neighborhood supermarkets. They carve out space to live in the walls around the roughly 100-square-foot rooms.

“They divide that concrete hollow block much like we do with apartment buildings,” said Health Department rodentologist Robert Corrigan. “You’ll have one family per block within those refuse rooms, and you can end up with 100 or 150 rats in each.”

Rat populations could be curbed by installing rat guards at the base of refuse room doors, by keeping the rooms clean, and by placing permanent poison traps inside the rooms, Corrigan said.

Trash on subway tracks and platforms isn’t helping rat infestations either.

“Litter begets litter. And when people see that certain tracks are really getting dirty, they contribute to it, and rats take advantage,” said Corrigan. “Where we see the most rats is where the litter level has increased dramatically.”

Of the subway lines surveyed, nine are infested with so many rats that they need immediate attention, and 19 tracks received a “fair” grade. Another 28 tracks scored “good” and two scored “excellent.”

“Once you go from good to fair, you begin to now see conducive conditions that may attract or sustain rats,” said Corrigan. “In other words, you begin to see an increase in track litter. You begin to see overflowing litter baskets. You begin to see old systems with walls cracked and so forth.”

The Health Department plans to study all the tracks in the subway system in the future and is working with the MTA to address the rat problem.

“We’re supportive of the recommendations but need to evaluate the costs associated with implementation,” an MTA spokesperson said.

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