Rats are out in full force on the subway platform at the 86th and Central Park West station, exposing one possible side effect of last year's cuts to the MTA's cleaning staff, but officials now say that a new cleanup program may help solve the problem. NY1’s Tina Redwine filed the following report.
Just minutes after NY1 arrived on the B/C subway platform on 86th and Central Park West at around 9:00 p.m. Monday, the first rat was spotted heading for a garbage bin. Within an hour, several more surfaced.
Commuter Cindy Grossman was sent scrambling a week ago when, according to her, a rat ran over her foot. It was a first for her after 25 years of riding the subway.
“I jumped up and I screamed,” said Grossman. “I was very much afraid that this rat could have bitten me. That is not what a person on the way to work should have to deal with, being bitten by a rat.”
A nearby garbage bin seems well-sealed, except that it has a nearly three-and-a-half-inch hole at the bottom where NY1 saw rats scurrying through.
Experts say rats need only a half-inch opening to get in, but sometimes that's not even necessary. Trash bags are left out near the disposal bins, there's stagnant water when the rats need a drink and holes in the platform where they can hide.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority reduced its cleaning staff last year by 10 percent, leaving about 1,000 cleaners.
Representatives from the transit workers union say that's left stations dirtier and more attractive to rats. Straphangers like Grossman say it's unacceptable.
“There are public cuts for things that are luxuries, but for public health issues, there should not be a budget cut,” said Grossman.
Union reps claim that the rat population has exploded, but MTA officials say it's unclear if there are more rats: Neither the Department of Health nor the MTA say they track that number.
Regardless, MTA officials say the authority is working to move trash off platforms more quickly, and within six months it will tighten up conditions at 25 stations by installing door sweeps, cleaning garbage rooms, plugging up holes and exterminating.
Among the stations in the cleanup program are Grand Central Terminal, Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer, Nostrand Avenue and Rockaway Avenue.
86th Street/Central Park West
Jamaica Center Parsons/Archer
Brooklyn Bridge /City Hall at Foley Square
West 4th Street
Grand Central Terminal Main Refuse Room