Oh rats! Dyker Heights residents spot rodents near park

August 1, 2019 Paula Katinas
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Donald Tremblay and his wife were taking a walk around the perimeter of Dyker Beach Park on a recent evening when their pleasant stroll was ruined by an ugly sight: rats scurrying around in their vicinity.

As awful as it was, the rat sighting wasn’t a fluke, according to Tremblay, who said he and his wife also spotted rodents at the same location while walking around the park a few nights later.

“On two different nights while it was still light, my wife and I walked around Dyker Park and encountered rats on the corner of 86th Street and Seventh Avenue,” Tremblay told the Home Reporter.

“It was on the grass right near the dog park,” Tremblay said, referring to the dog run located at the tip of Dyker Beach Park. “The first time, we saw a rat chasing after a bird. On the second night, there were two rats scurrying around. I would have just walked past them, but my wife insisted we cross the street,” he said.

Tremblay, who served as a publicist years ago for Bishop Kearney High School and Saint Saviour High School, is calling on the city to address the situation.

“The spot where we saw them is a place where kids could have been,” he said.

Tremblay had an idea on how the city could get rid of the rodents.

“A few years ago Dyker Park had a rat problem. I believe the city solved the problem by dropping possums in the park. The problem was gone in no time. Well, it looks like it’s time for the city to drop more possums,” he said.

The Parks Department is unlikely to take such a step.

The city did place opossums in Brooklyn parks as an experiment to try to get rid of the rat population several years ago, but the plan backfired, according to a 2010 article in New York magazine.

The opossums not only did not rid the city of rodents, the opossums themselves multiplied. And as a result, the borough became overrun with the critters, New York reported.

This time around, the city will likely employ more conventional methods of rat extermination.

A Parks Department spokesperson said the agency will be visiting Dyker Beach Park.

“We are aware of rat activity near Dyker Beach Park and our exterminator is scheduled to visit this week to address,” the spokesperson told the Home Reporter in an email.

The Parks Department sends an exterminator into the park on a regular basis to inspect the area, officials said.  

Councilmember Justin Brannan, a Democrat representing Dyker Heights, Bay Ridge and parts of Bensonhurst, said he is taking steps to address the problem.

“While no constituents have contacted my office about this, after hearing about the local resident’s concerns, my office is in talks with the Department of Health and the Parks Department to address any rodent situation in Dyker Park,” he told the Home Reporter in an email.

Dyker Beach Park, a sprawling, 216-acre recreational area, stretches from Seventh Avenue to 14th Avenue and from 86th Street to Cropsey Avenue. It contains a golf course, a catering hall, playgrounds, ball fields and a handball court.

Fran Vella-Marrone, president of the Dyker Heights Civic Association, said her organization hasn’t received any complaints from local residents reporting rat sightings around the park lately.

“But I’m not surprised to hear that someone saw a rat, unfortunately. From time to time, there has been a rodent problem in Dyker Park,” she said.

Vella-Marrone speculated that the rat problem might not be originating in the park.

“Sometimes the rats come up from the sewers and then go inside the park, where they burrow and make themselves at home,” she said.

The number of cases in which New Yorkers have reported seeing rats increased dramatically between 2014 and 2018, according to the New York Times, which reported earlier this year that the city’s 311 system received 17,353 calls about rats in 2018.

In 2014, there were 12,617 calls made to 311 about rodent sightings.

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