At around 6:30 p.m. on Friday, straphangers hurried about a sweltering Jamaica subway station, trying to make their way to another destination. All the while they were being observed by critters who lurk in the darkness and feast on garbage — rats.
“Of course, we’re used to it, but it’s still disgusting,” said subway rider Felicia Olatunbosun of Jamaica. “They walk around in packs.”
Members of Transit Workers Union Local 100 say the Parsons Boulevard-Archer Avenue station is overrun with the vermin, making traveling by subway a scary proposition for many riders and posing numerous health concerns.
They held a rally at the location on Sept. 21, handing out fliers to raise awareness about the problem. Some 600 people signed the group’s petition for a rat-free subway. The union plans to hold similar demonstrations at other rat-infested stations across the five boroughs.
“Parsons-Archer is a five-star hotel for rats,” the fliers quoted Brian Brooks of TWU 100 as saying. “Lots of food, cans and Dumpsters without lids, trash piling up — when you bring bags in there, they’re just sitting on the bags, hundreds of ’em, waiting for you. They own the place.”
The union is calling for more trash pickups at the station, also known as Jamaica Center, patching of ratholes in the walls and floors, more platform garbage cans and tight-fitting lids for trash storage bins. They claim budget cuts have led to lax cleaning, with 257 janitorial employees being let go citywide since 2010. The MTA did not answer a request for comment.
“It’s really bad,” said one MTA worker at the station, who would not give her name. “They’re really big and there’s a lot of them.”
According to TWU spokesman Jim Gannon, the rats gravitate toward a refuse room, where garbage is stored, on the west side of the train platform — the end of the line for the J, Z and E trains. He said after the union rally, MTA officials tried to clean up the area and sprayed air freshener to cover the smell, but it caused little improvement.
The odor of rotten trash intensifies as one moves closer to the refuse room. One straphanger had a scarf tied around her face, covering her nose, seemingly to block out the offensive aroma, and the rodents can be seen scurrying alongside the tracks, which are packed with garbage in certain locations. A sign on a nearby wall said that the area had been treated with rodenticide on Aug. 27.
“I usually see rats,” said rider James Lake-Wells of Jamaica. “It’s the ghetto. You are supposed to expect that. There are homeless people that urinate down there and people throw their garbage and food here, so it’s to be expected.”
The rodent problem has raised safety concerns, especially since earlier this month a rat bit a woman waiting for the J train at the Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall station, according to published reports.
“They could bite people, especially if they have food,” said Janeal Francis of Jamaica. “They have diseases. It’s hazardous to people’s health.”