UPPER WEST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) -- The New York City Department of Sanitation thought it was doing a good thing when it took hundreds of litter baskets off the streets.
But on Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered the agency to stop over complaints from residents about a growing rat problem.
"My son was walking home from the pizza restaurant, and a rat ran right across his foot," Upper West Side resident Joy Schwartz said.
And other residents are also reporting more close encounters with rats.
"Rats will eat anything," Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal said. "But here they see a good piece of discarded Upper West Side dessert."
The sanitation department removed 110 garbage cans from the area over the past 12 months, meaning existing ones fill up and overflow.
And mounds of trash are like Thanksgiving dinner for rats.
"You see them more at night," Schwartz said. "That's when they come out, and they are eating the plastic."
Rosenthal took sanitation on a field trip, and it worked.
"They put back close to 10 in spots where there is chronic filled with litter," she said.
And now, de Blasio has stepped in and ordered the agency to immediately stop removing bins, pointing out it invested millions in a rat reduction initiative that's working.
The city will also look at putting the original bins back in place.
Sanitation officials say they pulled the bins because people were "chronically" misusing them and filling them with household trash.
"If you don't have one, people are just going to litter in the streets," Rosenthal said. "One person starts it, and another person says, 'Oh, that's where you put the garbage.' It's just a silly policy.
The same vanishing act has happened in other neighborhoods across the city, and at one point, sanitation removed more than 200 trash cans in Harlem.
"Anytime I'm on the street, I notice rats," Upper West Side resident Sammy Sutton said. "They're moving into our neighborhood, and that's why they're charging so much rent. We have more residents now."
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Manhattan residents complain of rat increase after garbage bins removed
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