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City Shuts Down Peter Cooper Park to Clear Out Rats Ahead of Renovation

By Serena Solomon | December 2, 2013 8:49am | Updated on December 2, 2013 1:10pm
 The high population of rats in Peter Cooper Park is a concern during the construction of the Astor Place redesign, elected officals said.
Rats in Peter Cooper Park
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EAST VILLAGE — Cooper Square is getting a facelift — and the rats have got to go.

The city is targeting the hordes of rodents that live in Peter Cooper Park with a massive poisoning operation to keep them from spreading to neighboring buildings when renovations on the greenspace begin, officials told DNAinfo New York.

The city's Department of Design and Construction shut down the park, which runs between East Sixth and East Seventh streets, in mid-November to prevent people from leaving scraps of food behind and ensure the rats were hungry enough to eat the poison, DDC officials said.

"Reconstruction in Peter Cooper Park is scheduled to begin [in] early [December], allowing three weeks of intensive rodent baiting/monitoring without outside interference," DDC spokesman Craig Chin wrote in an email.

The overhaul of Peter Cooper Park with new gardens, benches and paved areas is part of the $16 million Astor Place redesign, which began in September and will create two new pedestrian plazas, adding seating areas, trees and lighting.

Chin said the renovation of Peter Cooper Park will reduce the area's rat population in the long term.

"The actual reconstruction of the park helps address the issue at the root," Chin said, "with construction removing the burrows and subterranean rodent habitats that formed in the vaulted spaces underground."

Earlier this fall, state Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, state Sen. Brad Hoylman and Councilwoman Rosie Mendez wrote a letter to DDC asking the agency to deal with the rat infestation before beginning construction.

"While we understand that DDC takes precaution for rodents with every construction project, this area is unique in that it possesses some of the highest concentrations of rat burrows in the city," Glick, Mendez and Hoylman wrote in an Oct. 30 letter to the DDC.

The park's rats have drawn complaints from area residents "steadily over the years," said Susan Stetzer, Community Board 3's general manager.

In an April 2013 inspection, the city found Cooper Triangle to have "active rat signs."

In the city's 2012 rat census in Community Board 3, Peter Cooper Park scored a 1, on a scale of 0 to 4, with 4 indicating a heavy rat infestation.

CB3 passed a resolution in October asking the DDC to proactively address the rat issue before starting construction.

"If the level of rat activity was not decreased before excavation, there would be a large movement of rats from the park in[to] the immediate area," CB3 said in the resolution.

The community board, as well as Glick, Mendez and Hoylman, placed some of the blame for the rats on some parkgoers.

"There are people in Peter Cooper Park every day all day and have been observed to use the park as both a kitchen and bathroom," CB3 said in its resolution.

Glick, Mendez and Holyman added in their letter that some people in the park were "bringing with them food, animals and waste that feeds and attracts rats."

The Department of Health, the city agency that deals with rodents, had previously been baiting the area for rats either weekly or every other week, but that wasn't enough to address the problem, the elected officials wrote.

The Department of Health referred questions to the DDC.