by Rebecca Henley
September 30, 2010
Elected officials, union members and city employees ripped into Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a rally Monday, saying his decision to cut funds to the city Department of Health will mean rats will run rampant throughout Jackson Heights and Queens.
“We feel he’s allowing the dirty, rotten rats in our neighborhood,” said City Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights).
Dromm, Council members Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst), state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) and members of Local 768 Health Services Employees Union protested the $1.5 million cut from the city budget when it was passed in June, which eliminated the jobs of 63 of the city’s 84 pest control aides.
They held the rally at 69th Street and 35th Road along the CMX freight railroad in Jackson Heights, which Dromm said is a common hiding spot for the vermin.
“Rats are not just gross. They’re not just a nuisance,” said Van Bramer, whose district is on the opposite side of the railroad. “They are a threat to every child, every senior.”
Dromm blamed the city Department of Transportation and the CMX railroad for not keeping the railroad clean and exacerbating the problem as well.
Ferreras said her district had a similar problem along the Long Island Rail Road, which runs along 45th Avenue.
Peralta said the decision to cut the $1.5 million would mean greater costs in the long run to get rid of a greater number of rats.
“We need to restore the money that was eliminated and we need to eliminate those rats,” Peralta said.
Fitz Reid, president of Local 768, said reducing the funding for pest control workers means cutting off a source of revenue for the city, saying the workers bring in $6 million in fees. He recommended laying off some city consultants as a means of restoring the $1.5 million.
“Everyone knows we are losing the war against the rats,” Reid said.
Eddie Rodriguez, president of Local 1549 New York City Clerical-Administrative Employees, also urged the city to pare consultants from the payroll and warned the decision to cut pest control workers would lead to a proliferation of diseases and lawsuits.
“It’s not fun when you get bitten by a rat,” Rodriguez said.
Mariano Ortiz, 55, a Brooklynite and one of the laid-off pest control employees, said the rat problem has gotten worse since May.
“Now they walk by you,” Ortiz said.
The DOT and CMX did not respond to calls as of press time.
Bloomberg’s office redirected queries to the city Department of Health.
No officials criticized the Department of Health. Community Board 5 district manager Giovanna Reid commended the department for its work, but said she believed it needed more pest control workers.
“I’m afraid of the impact it will have on this community,” she said.