The Department of Sanitation has tripled the frequency of trash pickups at Upper West Side playgrounds to try to drive the rats away, Councilmember Helen Rosenthal’s office announced. Rosenthal is also hosting a “Rat Academy” on September 28 with the Department of Health to teach building owners and tenants how to keep the rodents away (learn more about how to sign up here). And she said she’s trying to get special “Big Belly” garbage receptacles to the neighborhood faster, to combat the rats.
Since West Side Rag exposed the problem last month, it’s gotten citywide and national press, and become an issue in this year’s City Council race. Rosenthal faces two challengers in this Tuesday’s primary, and at least two more in the general election in November.
Mel Wymore, one of the two Democrats challenging Rosenthal, says that the rat problem has “reached a new low” and urged more aggressive action. Among other remedies, he writes that he would fight for the city to be included in the mayor’s $32 million rat prevention plan — the UWS was left off the list of neighborhoods that will get extra services to combat infestations.
Wymore also filed a complaint with the Campaign Finance Board claiming that Rosenthal violated the city’s rules against using government resources to send mass emails less than 90 days before an election. Rats, his spokesman said, have become a campaign issue.
But Rosenthal’s campaign spokesperson noted that the city rules allow for notices about health and safety.
“I’m surprised Mel is upset about this –his own campaign literature prominently features a rat, so he clearly agrees that addressing this is an imminent health and safety issue. Healthy and safety issues are, as you know, excluded from the blackout period.”