'Gross' Rats Infest Little Engine Playground, Parents Say

By Emily Frost on November 13, 2012 7:15am 

UPPER WEST SIDE — Parents who frequent the small Little Engine Playground at West 68th Street and Riverside Boulevard say the play space is surrounded by rats.

The rodents have created burrows in the bushes adjoining the enclosed playground that's near Trump Place and is geared towards toddlers and babies.

"[The rats] will just run across the playground," said Mindy Everett, 34, who lives in the neighborhood and brings her 3-year-old and 5-year-old to the playground almost every day. "Sometimes the kids try to chase them across the playground — it's gross."

Everett said she couldn't remember when she first started seeing rats, but that they appear in the play space more in the afternoons and evenings. She said she was resigned to their presence.

"It's kind of part of city life. It's an area that's perfect for [rats] with all the little kids dropping food," she said.

But another parent, a father with a young son who lives across from the playground, has taken action.

In October, the father, who asked not to be named, filed several complaints with 311, the city's helpline, but said he was confused by the email message response: "Work to correct the reported condition has been deferred because of seasonal considerations and will be corrected as soon as possible." 

The email also included information regarding the maintenance of at least eight rat-bait stations around the perimeter of the playground, stating that the property is "baited by [Department of Parks and Recreation] exterminator."

Another email said simply: "Will continue to trap as appropriate."

The Parks Department did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesman has said in the past, however, the department uses an integrated approach in playgrounds that "includes eliminating food sources and garbage, increasing trash pickups and the use of mechanical traps." 

Margo Cohen, who is in her 30s and has two toddlers, said she was "disgusted" by the rat problem and said she saw a rat racing from a trash can back to the bushes. 

Cohen said she was already avoiding a playground at West 64th Street and West End Avenue because it had a rat problem. 

The Upper West Side's rodent problem became so problematic this summer that Councilwoman Gale Brewer and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer co-hosted a "rat academy" to educate residents and building supers about how to combat infestations. 

Caroline Bragdon, of the Department of Health, said rats can give birth to up to 76 pups a year. Cutting off their food supply is the most important way to cut down on their numbers, she added.

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