Subway survey details rat sightings, station conditions

Water damage on the wall of the downtown Water damage on the wall of the downtown BDMF platform at the West 4th Street Station in Manhattan. (Oct. 30, 2013) Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

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Those may not be black cats darting in front of you at the subway station this Halloween morning: A quality-of-life survey indicates rats were spotted on 13 percent of underground subway platforms -- and 21 percent of those in the Bronx, more than in any other borough.

The survey was released Wednesday by the Straphangers Campaign, which conducted the survey.

The other boroughs had their share of the vermin, too, as rats were found on 15 percent of Brooklyn platforms, 13 percent of those in Queens and 10 percent of Manhattan's underground stops.

For some New Yorkers, one rat is too many.

"I've been living in New York since college and I think it's worse now than when I first moved here," said Abbie Akande, who lives in Washington Heights.

"I see rats in the subways on a daily basis; all the subway stations are infested," Akande said.

"It's becoming more frequent now," she said, adding that Columbus Circle and West Fourth Street are the stations where she sees them most often.

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Will McKinley, 43, who lives in Battery Park City, said he hasn't noticed an overall increase in rat sightings, but he has seen them in different spots.

"I've been seeing way more rats downtown than uptown recently. Perhaps it's migratory patterns? Or maybe we just drop better snacks on the platforms downtown," McKinley said.

The MTA said there is "no empirical data showing any type of increase in the rodent population" in the subway system, and that the agency has "expanded efforts to seal trash rooms and take exclusionary measures to disrupt rodent access to the trash rooms."

The Straphangers Campaign survey was conducted over the summer by 20 staffers and volunteers, who visited all 862 platforms in the subway system, and found that 32 percent have "substantial" graffiti, 26 percent have "substantial" areas of missing tile, and 39 percent have "substantial" floor cracks.

In evaluating only the system's underground platforms -- all 525 of them -- the survey found that 82 percent have "substantial" water damage, 74 percent have peeling paint and 20 percent have broken lighting fixtures.

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"We found what many riders know from bitter daily experience: Many subway platforms are grim and dreary," said Jason Chin-Fatt, the Straphangers Campaign field organizer, who oversaw the survey.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority argued that the survey's findings were mostly cosmetic, and that the "items in the Straphangers report highlight elements that would be extremely costly to keep in perfect condition and would do little, if anything, to either improve service or make stations safer."

Still, the Straphangers Campaign said it hopes the agency will listen to the findings.

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