CONCOURSE VILLAGE — Nancy Rodriguez, who lives in the Claremont Houses in the Bronx, says her three young children are kept up at night by a most unwelcome neighbor--the complex's many rats.
"They can hear the rats in the walls," the 41-year-old mom said. ''I have to make up stories, like it's the neighbor's dog. They don't want to sleep at night because they're scared."
Residents at this New York City Housing Authority complex say the rodent infestation there has gotten so severe, rats regularly troll the buildings' hallways and eat holes through the sheetrock of the walls. About 20 distressed tenants, with the help of nonprofit legal group Urban Justice Center, are filing a lawsuit against NYCHA this week demanding that the agency make repairs in the buildings and deal aggressively with the rat problem.
Longtime Claremont tenant LaQuesta James, 44, said that the buildings are so overrun with vermin, neighbors have to be careful just leaving their apartments each day.
"We have to peek out in the hallway and check to see if they're out there," she said. An elderly neighbor recently moved from the complex, she said, after she woke up with what she thought was her cat in the bed with her — only to discover an extra-large rodent. In James' own apartment, rats would regularly run through the rooms, even in broad daylight, entering through a hole they chewed in her bedroom wall.
"I had to put my dresser against it to keep the rat from coming back through," she said.
On Thursday afternoon, NYCHA workers were milling around the complex and handing out sticky rodent traps, tenants said--one day after the New York Daily News published an article about the planned lawsuit.
In a statement, NYCHA said it inspected the property on Thursday and was treating the infestation.
"Staff of the New York City Housing Authority did a comprehensive inspection today at the Claremont Houses and will repair items discovered that contributed to the rodent issue," the statement read. "We will follow a targeted treatment schedule to address the problem, and this will supplement the regularly completed treatment. Additional maintenance staff will be assigned to address and assist with the open work orders for the development.”
Tenants say the rat problem is one facet of a bigger issue — that getting needed repairs in their apartments can often take weeks or even months.
"They tell you they're going to take care of it, but I personally haven't seen anything getting done," said Rodriguez, who added she's also been waiting two weeks for a carpenter to fix a hole in her ceiling. "It's useless. You wait for weeks and then they come and they're not prepared."
Tenant Nova Strachan, 30, said they understand NYCHA has a demanding repair schedule, but that she and her neighbors want to know their problems will be addressed and taken seriously.
"We don't want to be painting a picture that NYCHA is a monster — we need NYCHA," she said. "We pay rent and we need things done, just like everyone else."