By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — Watch where you step in lower Manhattan — the subways are infested with rats.
Nearly half of the subway lines below Canal Street have a rat problem, the city Health Department found after tracking the wily rodents for the past two years.
Of the 58 track lines running beneath lower Manhattan, only two are in excellent shape, said Dr. Robert Corrigan, the Health Department’s urban rodentologist. Nine lines have such a severe rat problem that they need immediate attention, he said.
Corrigan announced his findings at a Health Department meeting Tuesday.
Litter is the chief cause of the rat problem, Corrigan said, so he recommended that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority seal off the garbage rooms in stations to prevent rats from getting inside. Infested garbage rooms could have more than 100 rats living behind the walls, he said.
The MTA can also address the problem by baiting all garbage rooms with rat poison and keeping the stations cleaner, Corrigan said.
John Fratta, 57, a Southbridge Towers resident, was not surprised to hear the subway system downtown is infested with rats. All the construction in lower Manhattan is disrupting the rodents' homes, so perhaps they are seeking refuge in the subway, Fratta said.
Fratta frequently sees rats in the early evening around the DeLury Park construction on Fulton Street, which is near the entrance to several major subway lines.
"They're very aggressive," Fratta said. "It's really disgusting."
New Yorkers can help by not dropping trash — especially food — on the platforms or tracks.
The MTA and Health Department are working together to apply the lessons learned in lower Manhattan across the subway system.