Although nobody is afraid of rats — who shamelessly inhabit subway lines — a group of public officials and activists fear that the situation could get out of hand this summer, the Spanish-language daily reports.
With 75 percent fewer pest-control workers and rising temperatures, officials think that the rats are going to multiply even more — especially given that complaints about rats have been up 9 percent for the year.
“When rats walk the streets like they own the neighborhood, we’ve got a problem,” Scott Stringer, Manhattan borough president, told El Diario.
In May 2009, 63 pest control workers were laid off. The staff reductions don’t make sense, according to the president of their union: The pests are multiplying, and the workers could generate $6 million for the city in sanitation fines.
“The city is losing money, and rats are taking its place,” Fitz Reid, president of Health Employees Local 768.
Lillian Roberts, executive director of Municipal Council 37, told the paper that it’s unacceptable that the Department of Health spent $1 million to create an anti-bedbug web page, when that money could have been used to fight rats.
“This leaves less than 20 pest control agents to combat the rat problem that’s growing throughout the city,” she said. “And, obviously, we all know that right now, the rats are winning the war.”
Stephanie Aruajo, a 29 year-old Washington Heights resident, told the daily the rats are leaving the train stations and walking along the sidewalk.
“They strut the neighborhood like they’re paying rent,” she said.
Washington Heights is the neighborhood with the most rats in the city, the paper reports, with an infestation index of 73.5 percent.
“It’s unacceptable,” Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, who represents the neighborhood, told the paper. “It’s unjust. The city’s children should not live in these conditions.”