For the past seven months, Cathy Santopietro has been in aliving nightmare.
Her mother’s house – on 80th Street near New Utrecht Avenue –has been plagued by a mysterious rat infestation, and she chalks itup to MTA construction near the 79th Street train station on thecorner.
There is a school [New Utrecht High School] across the street,so kids throw garbage, Santopietro explained. The MTA opened upthe column areas at the entrances at the train station. Ratsstarted coming out from these areas, especially at nighttime.
Back in April, Santopietro she started hearing noises in thewalls and ceilings of her mother’s basement. She thought they weremice and hired an exterminator to install traps, but nothing wasever caught.
Then we started to get a fly infestation in the basement,Santopietro said, noting that she does not live with her sickly80-year-old mother, but is speaking on her behalf. We realizedthere was a horrific smell and called another exterminator. Theyfound a dead rat in a heating vent in July or August.
Santopietro figured it was a one-time thing. They hired ahandyman who opened up the basement, added mesh to seal off theareas and covered up any holes. In the midst of this, another deadrat was found in the meter room, which was also taken apart andre-sealed.
Afterwards, we started to hear more rats, Santopietro said.In September, we hired a mason to excavate the yard to dig up thesewer pipes. They dug six feet down into the foundation and foundno holes. They built a cement wall and waterproofed around thehouse. It cost us $4,500.
But the nightmare was just beginning. Shortly after, there wasan infestation of about 500 flies in the basement that traveledthrough heating vents and got into upper apartments. After hiringanother exterminator, rats were found again – this time in thebasement ceiling near water pipes. The exterminator determined thatthe rats must have eaten poison, were searching for water and drankthe condensation on the pipes. Traps were installed in the heatingsystem and nine rats were caught over the course of 10 days lastmonth.
The tenants are upset and everyone is an emotional mess, saidSantopietro, who waived two months of rent for their troubles. Howwould you like living in a house where you worry if a rat is goingto run across the floor? We aren’t even telling my mother what isgoing on because she is too sick to worry about it.
This month, yet another contractor was hired; this one said therats were in a wall in the basement. He found a four-inch openingof the floor of the basement where the rats chewed through andburrowed. Two new walls were put up and things were sealed off, butSantopietro is worried that rats who may not have been in the wallat the time will later return to their sealed-off burrow and die -causing another fly infestation.
This has been a financial burden for me and my family, shesaid. In the midst of it all, I was advised not to call the HealthDepartment because they give the homeowner the violation.
A spokesperson for the MTA said he was unable to comment on theissue, but Community Board 11 and Assemblymember Peter Abbate saidthey will launch an investigation.
Someone has to step up to the plate and accept responsibilityfor this, Santopietro said. The damage is done and we have hadit. Since they opened these columns, it affected our lives. We havebeen here for 41 years and never saw a rat – they must have stirredup something.