Seniors Say Rats Run Rampant at Meltzer Tower Courtyard

melzterDominique Zonyee Scott

With rats potentially on the wane in Tompkins Square Park, another war against rodents is being waged – without nearly as much hoopla – several blocks south. Residents of Max Meltzer Tower, a senior citizen development at 94 East First Street near First Avenue say that rats are running wild in the complex’s courtyard.

“At night they all come out and have a party,” said Harry Baron, 71. “Now I try to go upstairs before 7 p.m., because that’s when they come out.”

Thelma Yearwood, 82, president of the tenants association, said that holes drilled during the Houston Street Corridor Reconstruction Project, which started this spring, brought the rats out from underground. Since then, she said, she has seen several of them run through the courtyard almost every evening.

“They’re getting closer and closer,” she said, worrying that colder weather would soon drive them inside of the housing project.

A representative of the New York City Housing Authority said that exterminators had visited the Meltzer Tower regularly since June. Rat poison and baits are all around the courtyard, but residents said they’ve proven ineffective. Seniors reported seeing rats emerge from the grass and large sewer grates near the entrance to the building’s lobby, and compared them in size to everything from squirrels to cats.

meltzer2 A dead rodent found west of Meltzer Tower.

One resident, Virginia Proto, 68, blamed non-residents for dumping food containers, soda, and other trash in the area. “I’m afraid to sit out here at night,” she said. “They pile up all the garbage in the back by the parking lot. It smells. That’s why a lot of rats are here.”

Prior to the infestation, Ms. Proto used to enjoy evenings chatting on the courtyard bench with fellow resident Iris Swepeig.

“We don’t sit out here when it’s dark anymore,” Ms. Swepeig said.

Ms. Yearwood said rats and garbage are always an issue at Meltzer Towers monthly meetings. She brought tenants complaints to NYCHA, but no real solutions have been found.

The NYCHA representative said that it had received six complaints from two residents regarding the rats. In July, the agency contracted an exterminator to monitor and treat the courtyard, and several bait stations were installed (there are currently a total of nine). The area was last treated by exterminators on Sept. 20, and follow-up visit is expected on Sept. 27.

Have you noticed a rat refuge that hasn’t gotten much attention? Tell us about it in the comments, or e-mail The Local.