Rat patrol? Residents say that Neponset sorely needs one

How bad is Boston’s rat problem? According to City Council President Ed Flynn, it’s serious enough to create a new “Office of Pest Control.”

“It’s a public health crisis as far as I’m concerned,” Flynn told WBUR. “It’s important that we work together, listen to each other, and acknowledge that we have a significant challenge here in the city. But let’s commit ourselves to solving it.”

Flynn is readying a proposal that the council will take up this week that he says will seek to address the rising reports of rat sightings in neighborhoods citywide. He’s modeling the idea on New York City, which just appointed its “rat czar.”

That’s music to the ears of residents near Garvey Park in Neponset, who say they’ve been seeing a surge in the oversized rodent population in recent months. And, despite frequent complaints to property owners and city officials, they’ve been getting little to no relief.

Brenda Rosa, who lives on Tolman Street with her husband and kids, says that the problem has gotten so bad that they rarely use their big back yard that backs up to Garvey Park. It also abuts the 7-11 convenience store on Neponset Avenue, where the store’s dumpster and trash-strewn back fence are the sources of the local rat problem, according to Rosa and other residents.

“At night, you see them scurrying along the fence from the dumpsters and then along the fence line to Metro Glass. We’re constantly seeing new burrows along the fence line. The trash is still the big problem,” she says. “It’s everywhere and it’s blowing into our yard. The city won’t allow us to have a high fence so we are constantly having to clean it up. Now, they’re burrowing under our garage.”

Her neighbor— Richard Connell, a third-generation resident of Tolman Street – is seeing the same uptick. He has taken to setting traps in his yard and routinely catches critters. But he sees the well-worn paths from the 7-11 dumpster to the neighboring yards and has little hope that there’s a solution in sight, unless they take action to clean up their mess.

“I was over the ballpark the other day and you can see all the trash piled up by their dumpster and along their fence. It’s just more feeding ground for the rodents,” says Connell.

He has mentioned his concerns to store managers a few times, but says the current management doesn’t seem to care.

“It’s sad. The city just completely renovated Garvey Park and it’s beautiful. The store is benefitting from all the new people using it. You’d think that they would want it to look better, but they don’t care.”

Brendan Rosa has the same impression. City code enforcement officers are aware of the problem— and have even cited the store, which just pays the fine and goes on ignoring the issue, she says.

That’s the problem facing Ed Flynn and other well-intentioned public servants hoping to move the needle on the city’s rat problem, she added.

“It needs to be everyone working together in coordination, including corporations like 7-11 and the local property managers,” said Rosa. “The rats are one thing. But they have to eliminate the access to their food. If you have corporations who don’t care, that’s going to be hard to do.”

If Boston does go the “rat czar” route, the first stop should be Tolman Street, where families like the Rosas and Connells feel besieged in their own backyards.

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