What to Know
- Tenants at a Bronx building lashed out against their landlord and officials earlier this month to address a rare disease spread by rats
- One man who lives in the building was hospitalized with Leptospirosis, and two others working at a nearby business got sick; one died
- The health department said it was working with the housing preservation and the building departments to reduce the rat population there
A map depicting dozens of the city's most vermin-plagued neighborhoods shows exactly where the New York City Department of Health is waging the most intense battles against an age-old nemesis: rats.
The map, obtained exclusively by the I-Team, allows residents to plug in any address to see if a building is located within rodent hot zones known as "rat reservoirs."
According to the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, buildings, sidewalks, parks and sewers in rat reservoirs are targeted for extra exterminator visits and intensified enforcement from health inspectors. Since the program was launched in 2015, officials say rat reservoirs are working.
"The vast majority of them show reductions from 30 to 50 percent in rats, so we really do believe it is a successful approach," said Caroline Bragdon, who serves as the city’s director of neighborhood intervention for pest control.
Still, the rodents were linked to an outbreak of Leptospirosis, a disease spread by rat urine, that claimed the life of one Bronx resident and sickened two others last month. It was later revealed one of the surviving patients lived in 750 Grand Concourse, a rat-infested building that had already been designated as part of a rat reservoir.
Though the neighborhood had been targeted with additional attention from rodent inspectors, Bragdon said the building landlord stymied efforts to attack the problem from inside the building.
“We knew rats were active in that neighborhood and we had been trying to engage many owners on the block for years,” Bragdon said. “If they’re not willing to work with us and if they’re actively shutting us out of buildings it makes our job very, very difficult.”
Ved Parkash, the building owner, declined comment. After the resident died, he did hire a new exterminator and pledged to clean up the property.
According to city records, exterminators from the health department visited 750 Grand Concourse 21 times in 2015. Last year, the number of rodent baitings went down to 12.
Despite pledges from both the landlord and the health department, some residents of 750 Grand Concourse continue to be pestered by rats.
Elaine, a third-floor resident whose father recently caught two rats in his kitchen, said she never noticed extra attention that comes along with being designated a rat reservoir building.
“It’s frustrating because we never knew we were in a rat reservoir. We just know we have the rats and it’s a problem and no one is doing anything about it,” said Elaine, who did not want to give her last name.
"Someone shouldn’t have to die for the city to come in.”