Judy Cartwright writes the Community Watchdog column
There's good news in Lawrence Glantz's Wantagh backyard: He hasn't seen any rats in weeks.
But earlier in the spring, they were out in force.
"We never had this before," Glantz said of the invasion. He contacted us in early May after having asked Hempstead Town and Nassau County for help in tracking down where the rodents had come from and preventing a recurrence.
"I've been here since '71 . . . Most of us don't ever remember seeing them," he said.
The neighborhood initially presumed the rats had migrated from areas flooded by superstorm Sandy. But public officials told him they had seen no evidence of such an exodus.
Nassau Health Department spokeswoman Mary Ellen Laurain told us the county is "not seeing an increase in rodent activity as a result of Sandy" and cited the decline in rat complaints in the first months of this year compared with 2012.
Glantz said a county employee and an exterminator told him that construction work on the nearby Route 135/Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway may have sent rodents fleeing a habitat there, and they had observed indications of rat activity near the neighborhood sump.
Regardless of the route, the question remained: What should a neighborhood do when these animals move in?
Laurain said the key attraction is the availability of food, so it's important to keep bird feed, fruit and berries off the ground (that goes for dog poop, too), and to harvest garden vegetables as soon as they're ripe.
Woodpiles should be elevated, she said, and gaps under sheds sealed.
As for going on the offensive: Hempstead Town doesn't set out bait, a spokesman said, and neither does the county Health Department. But the latter did contact the Department of Public Works, which set up several bait stations around the neighborhood sump bordered by Maxwell Drive, Martin Drive and Lufberry Avenue.
Glantz would like the county to do more to spread information about preventing rodent infestations. A fact sheet is on the county's website and Laurain said copies were distributed when staff inspected the area.
Glantz took actions that paid off: He relocated hostas that had obscured sides of his backyard shed and filled in gaps underneath. When he set out traps, he netted nine rats. We'll spare you the photos.
Those contraptions have been quiet of late. "I've had traps out for a week and caught nothing," he told us a few weeks later.
For more information about rat control, call the Nassau Health Department's Community Sanitation Program, 516-227-9715. In Suffolk, call the Department of Health Services, 631-852-5900.
Start with traffic turning onto a side street at full speed, add in a tall hedge that blocks the view around the corner and put that combination on a block full of children.
That's the scene in one Ronkonkoma neighborhood and it prompted one resident to ask for help.
Cars are "flying around the corner" at the three-way intersection of Chestnut Avenue and Easton Street, Maria Carabba said, into a block with upward of 20 children.
"We need our children to be safe, so please get these cars to slow down," she pleaded when we spoke in March. "Cars think this is a speedway or something." Children board and exit school buses not far from the corner.
We asked Islip Town if anything could be done to address the concerns. Recently, the town told said it is taking these steps:
The Traffic Safety Division will recommend stop signs on all three corners. A final decision is up to the Town Board.
Signs reading "School Bus Stop Ahead," with a 25 mph advised speed, will be installed. Town spokeswoman Inez Birbiglia said a recent inspection found signs installed in 2009 were missing.
As for the hedges: The town has issued a summons to the property owner for a "sight obstruction violation," Birbiglia said. The summons, issued in April, is due in court later this month.
"The hedge is clearly an issue that is affecting sight distance," she said in an email, and the town will "continue to monitor the progress."
Though stop signs are recommended, the site is not optimal for them, Birbiglia said. It is sandwiched between two others with traffic signals, so "compliance can be compromised by motorists' disregard for the stop sign in their effort to 'beat the light,' " she said.
Suffolk County police will expand patrols at the nearby Ocean-Easton intersection to include Easton-Chestnut, Fifth Precinct Insp. Aristides Mojica told us. Sixty-one tickets have been issued so far this year at Ocean-Easton, he said, a site that's part of an effort targeting high-crash locations.
Fifth Precinct residents with concerns about traffic or other issues can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. All emails are read, Mojica said.
And Carabba's next step? She'll be asking for signs warning drivers: "Children at Play."