CROWN HEIGHTS — They bum around the corner at all hours of the day and night, strewing trash in their wake and terrorizing the neighbors.
"I cant walk down the sidewalk — I don’t walk down that side of the street anymore," said local resident Joy Heart. "They have no shame, no fear."
But it's not gang-bangers who've scared Heart and her neighbors off this quiet block of Bergen Street between Franklin and Bedford Avenues.
Instead, it's a crew of fat, obnoxious rats, they said.
"You don’t just see one rat — you see four or five, six, anytime of the day or night," Heart explained. "I hear from my neighbors about their escapades."
Heart and others said the rats favor the garbage cans outside 925 Bergen St., a four-story apartment building near the intersection of Franklin Avenue. But it wasn't until new developers bought the vacant lot next door and began drilling that the rats really became a nuisance, neighbors claimed.
"If there’s construction, that disrupts rats and gets them moving around," said Ede Fox, head of Community Board 8's sanitation committee and a candidate for the seat held by City Councilwoman Letitia James. "You have areas where landlords aren’t providing enough garbage cans, so it’s a plentiful buffet."
Heart said she and her neighbors had seen a spike in the rat problem in recent months.
"I started seeing a lot more activity late last year, beginning in November," Heart said. "They come because of the drilling, and they stay because of the access to the trash."
Though both the developer and the city have baited the area, the rats are still a major problem, residents say.
"I would love to talk about anything else besides rats, I just want this to be dealt with," Heart said. "We want to be able to exist and be able to walk on the sidewalks, walk our dogs, walk our kids down the street without the constant fear of being bitten."