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Fed up with rodent infestation, New York man hangs 'Rat Crossing' signs

Residents on Manhattan's Upper West Side are fighting a rat problem and posting signs to warn pedestrians. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.

It’s a common sight in New York: rats scurrying across subway tracks, onto dimly-lit streets, and into sewers. And while New Yorkers aren't happy about sharing their city with rodents, it's something that, with experience, they learn to shrug off.

One Manhattan resident, however, is fed up with it.

Joseph Bolanos, president of the West 76th Street Block Association, decided to call attention to the problem by installing eye-catching signs on Wednesday: fake traffic-crossing signs just for the rats.  

The diamond-shaped plastic signs prominently feature the words “RAT XING” with a big black rat at the center. Bolanos hung the signs with double-sided tape around his Upper West Side neighborhood.

NBC New York

Joseph Bolanos, president of the West 76th Street Block Association, hangs up a rat-crossing sign in his neighborhood on the Upper West Side in Manhattan.

The move may be a bit flippant, but Bolanos said he thinks the signs could bring attention to the issue plaguing his streets.

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“A woman in the building next door said she could hear the rats outside screaming and screeching,” Bolanos told NBC News on Thursday. “I’ve heard neighbors thinking someone got attacked outside because they would hear shrieks, but it was just people who were passing by running with the fear of God in them from all of the rats frolicking like it’s Cirque du Soleil.”

The rat problem, residents said, stems from a construction site where workers have reportedly been leaving trash from their lunch out, underneath a tarp overnight, NBCNewYork.com reported.

“You’re putting a buffet out for them for 12 hours,” Bolanos said, adding that the rats are “really destroying [residents’] quality of life.”

Bolanos said so far, he has put up three signs on posts along a 50-foot radius from the construction site. But he plans to post more.

“I designed them. I laminated them. And they’re going to be bigger next week,” Bolanos said. “Believe it or not, they’ve already started working because when people see them, they cross the ‘rat zone’ altogether.”

But ultimately, Bolanos said, the rat infestation remains the city’s responsibility.

“I’d like to see if the city is going to do anything. Let’s see in the next 10 days if the city has an answer.”

Bolanos suggested adjusting the city’s trash pick-up guidelines as a means of cutting down on the amount of time that rats have to feed on the trash laying around. He also said he wants residents to wait until two hours before pick-up to put garbage outside. 

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Bolanos even helped organize a mid-August training session for supers, building owners, tenants and others on the Upper West Side concerned with how to better fight the critters. The “Rat Academy” was instructed by a city health department official, Caroline Bragdon, who told attendees where to look for rats’ nests and how to plug holes that might let the vermin into buildings.

New York City Councilwoman Gale Brewer, who also helped organize the rat management training, had reportedly secured $50,000 to pay for trash cans with built-in compactors that would be placed around the 76th Street block.

It was during the Rat Academy that Bolanos first mentioned he would hang up the rat-crossing signs, which he said will serve as a warning to pedestrians that they may encounter dozens of rats scurrying by. 

Rats aren't a new concern for residents of the West 76th Street area. A report from an association meeting in late May said a professional exterminator was coming to the neighborhood twice a month to help control the rodent population. 

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