Rodents, critters invade Brooklyn housing complex; residents plead for help

"We have skunks and we've got raccoons and we've got possums," Betty Bernhart said.

Sonia Rincón Image
Monday, December 12, 2022
Brooklyn residents under siege from rodents, critters
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Residents at the Red Hook NYCHA housing complex in Brooklyn are pleading for more to be done to stop rats, racoons and skunks from invading. Sonia Rincon has the story.

RED HOOK, Brooklyn (WABC) -- A community in Brooklyn is under siege from a cast of unwanted invaders.

"We have skunks and we've got raccoons and we've got possums, the only thing that we're missing now is lions, tigers and bears," said Betty Bernhart of Red Hook Initiatives.

Residents at the Red Hook Houses have managed to snap a few pictures, but they generally don't want to get close, especially for residents with small dogs.

"I've heard a few people have been sprayed by skunks. And It's just scary, especially at night," Red Hook Houses resident Tammy Gist said.

It's a problem made worse by the long-term construction and flood proofing upgrades being done to the complex since Hurricane Sandy. The old basement boilers are also being replaced with an above ground central heating system.

The multi-billion dollar resiliency plan has meant a lot of digging, and there's still another year and a half to go.

Eyewitness News reporter Sonia Rincon was told that rats live in tarp-covered piles.

There are rat traps and bait boxes everywhere, in an effort to control the situation, but advocate Betty Bernhardt says NYCHA needs to do better.

"Not only these traps. They've gotta fill up the little holes that you see, the animals digging into," Bernhardt said.

Eyewitness News reporter Sonia Rincon also spoke with a wildlife trapper in Red Hook who says the neighborhood has always had plenty of critters.

The ones he traps, as long as they're healthy, get relocated to non-residential areas that they don't have to share with humans.

"You need to get them out of the area at least 25 miles away from where they actually had their den, if not, they will return," said Alberto Calderon of Hunters Wildlife Removal. "You can't just grab them, trap and release a couple of blocks. Those guys will come back."

Calderon says if NYCHA is using regular exterminators to address the issue and not someone who handles wildlife bigger than rats, they will definitely come back.

Residents say they know the agency is dealing with the issue.

"We see people, doing the job, I believe, but we could see more," Red Hook Houses resident Eddie Ab said.

NYCHA has said both the agency and its construction contractor work on the pest and wildlife problem several days a week.

The hope is that once the construction is over in a year and a half or so and all the holes are backfilled and plugged, the situation will improve.

But in the meantime, the head of a residents association in Red Hook is urging tenants to report the locations of the burrow holes to NYCHA and is urging NYCHA to hire a few more workers on the premises to help.

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