Rats take refuge in Riverdale Playground


Independence Avenue resident Danny Chameides returned from work two weeks ago and parked his car on West 236th Street, near Riverdale Playground and two schools, the Spuyten Duyvil School (P.S. 24) and the David A. Stein Riverdale-Kingsbridge Academy (M.S./H.S. 141). 

As he walked down the sidewalk, past a sizeable pile of trash across from P.S. 24, he was shocked to encounter approximately 20 rats of various sizes swarming the trash in search of food morsels and other refuse that might entice a rodent out of its lair.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Mr. Chameides, who has lived in the area for 14 years and has parked his car on the street for the past few years.

He believes trash placed on the curb and picked up several nights a week is luring the rats into the area.

The Department of Parks and Recreation confirmed that there is a rat infestation in and around Riverdale Playground, but declined to comment on the cause of the problem.

“NYC Parks is implementing strategies to reduce the rodent population near Riverdale Playground, including the regular use of rat bait,” said Parks spokesman Nathan Arnesti. “We encourage all New Yorkers to properly dispose of their litter and help keep our parks and playgrounds rodent free.”

Rats can be seen scurrying in and out of an intricate maze of tunnels that winds through the roots of several large trees within paces of the playground. The principals of RKA and P.S. 24 did not return messages seeking comment. But an RKA custodian who declined to give his name said his school is aware of the rat problem.

“They’re coming out [and] they’re eating garbage from the school,” he said.

The custodian added that the school called 3-1-1 to complain about the rodent situation and the Board of Education put rat poison in the RKA building on March 13 as a preventive measure, but the problem has persisted. Custodial staff at P.S. 24 could not be reached for comment.

Peter Paramonov, who has parked on West 236th Street for the last four years, said rats and wild creatures seem to have taken up residence in the playground’s vicinity.

He has spotted raccoons and skunks ambling around the playground at night, and said the garbage situation is likely contributing to the issue. 

“The garbage spills pretty often. Sometimes it’s even in the streets,” he said. “It’s pretty nasty. I wouldn’t be surprised if this attracted rats.” 

Mr. Chameides worries that with a plethora of rats in the area, some might find their way into the schools, posing a health threat to the students. 

“The idea is to cut their food source, it seems to me,” he said. “Rats, food source — it’s a party.”