Rats revel in shade of scaffolding

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People aren’t the only ones rushing up the steps at 3660 Waldo Ave. 

Rats have joined the West 238th Street community, adding to a list of unwelcome guests that include trash and graffiti that is strewn and sprayed along the steps. 

It’s New York City, and rats are an infamous fixture. But Waldo Avenue residents are blaming a long-standing sidewalk shed between Waldo and Irwin avenues, which according to Margaret Nolan, has wreaked havoc on the community for years.

“The community used to hold spring cleaning day, and people would come out and clean the steps,” Nolan said. “But since the scaffolding has gone up, there is graffiti all over the walls and trash — and dental floss.”

The sidewalk shed has created a secluded and dark setting for this part of the neighborhood, Nolan said, which welcomes the rats and debris. 

“Before the scaffolding, there would always be trash and bottles, and now it just never gets cleared up, and there’s constantly garbage and rocks and countless used condoms,” said Helene Tyler, another local resident, who teaches mathematics at Manhattan College. “There is so much graffiti because it is easy for people to do it without being seen.”

And the 17-year resident finally said enough was enough, reaching out to Councilman Andrew Cohen hoping he could do something about it. And while the manager in charge of the sidewalk shed said he’s not sure when it’s coming down, Cohen’s office suggests it could be removed as early as this month.

The sidewalk shed is to help workers renovate façade, brick, roofing and the chimney of the Majestic apartment building, according to Junior Paji, manager of HKS Scaffolding. Although Nolan believes the sidewalk shed has been up for five years, Paji says it’s been only three — a claim confirmed by the city’s buildings department, which says this particular shed was first permitted in July 2015.

The buildings department also states that the façade is unsafe, which until those issues are cleared up, the shed would be required to stay in place.

Yet, the issues the sidewalk shed is creating affect public safety and are demoralizing, Tyler said, who has seen rats on her way to work.

“I meet parents during open houses and orientation, and I want parents to feel good about their kids coming here,” she said. “Having the steps be that way, it’s just embarrassing.”

While the neighborhood awaits the removal of the sidewalk shed, the city is making an effort to at least clean up the walkway. Joshua Stephenson, constituent services director for Cohen’s office, says trash has since been removed, and baits have been set out to try and eradicate the rats as well.

The work on the Majestic is complete, Stephenson said. All that’s left is a stamp of approval from the buildings department.

After that, Tyler said, maybe the city can address the step street itself.

“I would like to see the scaffolding gone,” Tyler said. “And I want the steps to be renovated and repaired because our neighborhood deserves it.”

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