Subway Workers: Rats Are Multiplying, Getting Bolder

By Pei-Sze Cheng
|  Thursday, Sep 22, 2011  |  Updated 11:55 AM EDT
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With rodents taking over a number of New York City subway stations, riders and MTA employees say it's time for something to be done.

With rodents taking over a number of New York City subway stations, riders and MTA employees say it's time for something to be done.

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Disgusted subway workers say rats underground are multiplying and getting bolder, and are a health risk to them and passengers.

Paul Flores, who has been a station agent for 12 years, said the problem is widespread.

"It's the same thing all over," he said. "Less trash pickups, the cans fill to the top and rats just eat off that."

The subway workers' union, TWU Local 100, has started a campaign called New Yorkers Deserve a Rat-Free Subway, and is urging commuters to sign an online petition in hopes of making a statement to the MTA.

Transit workers also demonstrated Wednesday in front of Jamaica Central Terminal where, according to both workers and passengers, a terrible rodent problem persists. Workers passed out pamphlets to riders and solicited signatures for their online petition, telling people, "If You Smell Something, Sign Something."

Everyday straphangers see the rodents, too -- and not just on the tracks.

"One time I saw -- on the 6 train -- I saw a rat under the seats," said Carlos Laracuente, of Bayside, Queens.

"I've seen them on the platform," Janet Siovasoto, of Jamaica, Queens, said as she waited for her train at 53rd and Broadway. "A few mornings this week, I stood right there and watched the rats go inside the trash room.  It's really disgusting and they need to do something about it."

Amateur videos posted online also show numerous rodents on the subways. The more memorable clips include the  fearless rat that crawled up a sleeping man's leg and one that scurried up and down a subway car, setting off panic among riders.

The union claims transit cutbacks and layoffs are contributing to the problem.

The trash pickups used to happen "every couple of days," according to Flores. "Now it's four or five days before they pick up the garbage, and the rats just basically call that home."

At some stations, Flores said, employee break rooms are right next to the trash rooms and it is not unusual for rats to invade their space.

"We need more cleaners, basically," said another union member, Derrick Echevarria.

The MTA said most of the phased-out cleaning jobs involved subway cars, not stations.

"We are working with the city in an effort to find more effective ways of addressing the rodent problem," the MTA said in a statement.

Short-term solutions include baiting stations more often, the MTA said.

The agency also said that nearly 40 tons of waste are removed from the system daily.

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