ROOSEVELT ISLAND — They had it coming.
The city paved over a large rat colony that had taken over a small yard outside of P.S./I.S. 217's cafeteria late last week, in response to locals' complaints that as many as 200 rats were running amok there.
On Thursday, the Department of Education sent workers to the school to tear up the dirt yard and pour a new concrete sidewalk around the school's perimeter as part of an extensive rat-abatement program set for the school, according to DOE spokesman Michel Aciman.
The agency also set out bait boxes to cut down the rat colony and has plans to keep garbage off the ground with new garbage cans, city officials said.
School Principal Mandana Beckman sent an email out to parents Thursday to reassure them that the school's interior is rat free and that the DOE has taken the steps necessary to get rid of the infestation — including removing planters where rats were burrowing, removing nests, paving the yard, and giving the school four bins to put food waste in.
The DOE's exterminator will visit on a weekly basis to monitor the bait stations, she said.
"An inspection was done today by an inspector with the Department of Education, and the school passed that inspection — the inspector found no evidence of rats or other vermin/pests within the school," she wrote. "As a result of the exterminators' efforts, we are already beginning to see positive change in the yard, and we will continue to keep you updated as we learn more about what the inter-agency team recommends regarding our property."
Despite the DOE's action, some locals say the school continued to dump its trash on the sidewalk near the problem area last week and that the cement doesn't necessarily stop rats from burrowing, tunneling or nesting.
"I've suggested a mini cat sanctuary on the premises — it's not a joke, because cats are the ones who work the best with no collateral effects," said Rossana Ceruzzi, a member of Roosevelt Island Residents Association's Island Services Committee, during a meeting on June 7, which was first reported by the Roosevelt Islander.
Ceruzzi said the committee would supervise the cats within the yard, therefore eliminating the need for dangerous pesticides.
But the Department of Health says it is confident in the DOE's plans and does not recommend using cats as a rat-control measure, mainly because cat food would attract more rats.
"The rodenticide being used in the baiting of the school property is very safe," said DOH Carolina Rodriguez. "In fact, there is little to no risk of rodenticide exposure as the Department of Education is using tamper resistant bait stations. We are confident the rat control measures implemented at Roosevelt Island will yield a significant reduction in rat activity in the next six to eight weeks."
A "Rat Academy" course for the public has also been scheduled by the Health Department for June 29, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., at the island's Chapel of the Good Shepherd, 543 Main St.