What to Know
- A rat infestation at a Queens park has gotten so bad that it's been spreading to nearby homes, neighbors say
- It appears to be part of a citywide trend: 311 complaints about rats swelled to a record high on 2015, and 2016 is on pace to beat that
- The parks department says it's set up traps at the Queens park and is monitoring
As citywide complaints about rats soar to record numbers, one infestation at a New York City park has gotten so bad that neighbors say they can hardly enjoy their local field or feel safe in their own yards.
Cellphone video taken by one resident in the Ozone Park neighborhood of Queens shows just how bold the rodents are, as they scurry around a fenced-in section of the Vito Locasio Field near the restrooms in broad daylight. And that's before the problem gets really bad, according to neighbors: they start coming out in force during the evening and nighttime hours.
"At twilight, that's when they peak -- hundreds of them, schools of them running around over there," said James Kolm of nearby Howard Beach. "They've got traps over there, but they're running around all over the field. It's very dangerous."
Others say they've seen rats scurry in and out of holes under the bleachers.
The NBC 4 New York viewer who shot the video of the rats says he's called 311 multiple times about the infestation since it began over a year ago.
"The field is an everyday park for dogs playing, kids having baseball, football and soccer practice," said the viewer, who asked not to be named. "People also come here every Sunday and set up their volleyball net and have a family day with all these rodents enjoying the remains from dusk till the early morning."
He said he's also seen the rats running in and out of his and his neighbors' yards.
"This is gross and nobody will take action with multiple calls to 311," he said in a Facebook message to NBC 4. "I have a family and have to hose down my yard and spread bleach constantly to rid feces on my property."
Another family estimated they call the exterminator every few weeks.
The New York City Parks Department said they set up bait traps in the park earlier in the summer and are monitoring them.
Kolm thinks they could be doing more.
"They're not fighting them. Get a couple of pounds of poison, that's the end of that. They're gone!" he said.
Exterminators tell NBC 4 it's not that easy: they'd have to find where the rats are tunneling underground.
Rats in the city aren't a revelation, but the complaints are coming in at record numbers. Last year, a record 29,314 rodent complaints were logged with 311, the city says. So far in 2016, there have been over 22,178 complaints, well on pace to shatter last year's record.
Mayor Bill de Blasio last year announced a $3 million extermination plan. And in July, the city Health Department began a pilot program using dry ice to suffocate rats in their underground nests. The program is being monitored at J. Hood Wright Park in upper Manhattan.