Rat problem forces community garden in Harlem to be shut down

HARLEM, Manhattan (WABC) -- Too many rats have forced community leaders to shut down a garden in Harlem.

People in the neighborhood say it all started when a building was being torn down, and that sent the rats over.

Now they say not enough is being done to fix the problem.

Joshua Bakunin loves to show off Harlem Valley Garden, the community garden he helped start on a vacant lot on West 134th Street back in 2013.

It was once filled with herbs and vegetables, but not anymore.

Most of the space is empty this spring. Bakunin had to close the garden this year because of the uninvited guests.

The rats are bold and unafraid because they definitely outnumber the farmers. The rats came over when an old abandoned church was demolished across the street.

"And at some point they start crossing the street and jumping into the garden," said neighbor Alejandro Ibanez. "And I could see them digging and trying to find their way in."

The rats have taken up residence and so the rare green space where children played, neighbors met and families barbecued, is closed.

"We've reached out to the city, to the parks department, to Green Thumb, to the department of health, 311, sanitation," said Bakunin.

The Parks Department says they have a plan to get rid of the rats, but if they do, they haven't shared it with the people who run the garden.

"If everything happens very quickly, we can still manage to have a harvest this year," said Bakunin.

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