The Metropolitan Transit Authority is stepping up its battle against rodents by rat-proofing the rooms in subway stations where trash is stored. NY1's Jose Martinez filed the following report.
A subway station's refuse room is a hungry rat's delight.
At the Fifth Avenue and 53rd Street station, for example, rats run in and out, free to feast on the grub in garbage bags behind the refuse room's doors. The same happens at Grand Central in a refuse room that is currently being rat-proofed.
"There's dried hamburgers, there's coffee cups and Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks," said Metropolitan Transit Authority worker Paul Jones. "So they're after the food in the trash bags."
The MTA plans to expand its anti-rat campaign by targeting more of the 210 stations that have refuse rooms.
Workers are adding steel-lined rubber stoppers to doors, installing metal gates and plugging floor and ceiling cracks to keep the rats out.
The refuse room makeover at Grand Central, one of the biggest in the system, aims to keep rodents from the 40 tons of trash hauled out of the subway system daily.
"What we've done to that refuse room is really tighten it up," said MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz. "Door stoppers, re-laid the floors so that there are no gaps where rats can get in and essentially attack the food that's there."
In its absence, subway trash gets stored in one of 24 metal bins.
Three times a day, the day's haul of garbage from all the subway platforms at Grand Central is brought into the room of bins.
By nighttime, MTA officials say the bins are packed to the very top.
"Where there's food, you see rats," Ortiz said. "Rats are attracted to food, so if you have garbage like this piled up and stored for extended periods of time, they're going to come and try and get the food."
With riders bringing food into stations or tossing it onto the tracks, there may not be much that can curb the subway rat population, which the MTA doesn't even attempt to put a number on.
"You can't stop the rats," said a subway rider. "Even if the world ended, cockroaches and rats, that's what I say."
"I don't really think there's anything we can possibly do to get them all away, but we can lower the population by having more people clean up," another subway rider said.
The result, the MTA hopes, is fewer subway sightings of plump rats.