Rats are infesting a Deer Park street, digging under fences, gnawing on decks and alarming residents.
“I’ve seen them running on the lawn at night,” said Tom Zeblisky. “My wife doesn’t want to come out into the backyard.”
Residents and Babylon Town officials say the rats appear to be breeding inside a Conklin Street home owned by a woman in her late 60s who they say hoarded food and newspapers in dozens of garbage pails outside her house.
A neighbor who has been inside the house and would only give his first name, Michael, said “stuff was piled up” everywhere.
Zeblisky, who lives next door, said he’d seen one rat inside the home, “in the window, climbing. It was a gray rat. It looked like it was trying to get out.”
Alerted to the problem, Babylon Town officials have given the home owner until Friday to hire an exterminator to kill the rats before the problem grows worse, town spokesman Brendan Cunningham wrote in an email.
“The Town of Babylon has been working closely with the Suffolk County Department of Health, and several notices of noncompliance were issued to the homeowner,” he wrote. “If the unsanitary conditions at this location are not rectified” the town will complete the work and bill the homeowner, he added.
Town officials cannot at this time enter the woman’s home, Cunningham wrote. But once the exterminator has done his work, the town will “work with the Suffolk County Department of Health and the Suffolk County Police Department to address the interior issues,” he said.
Varughese Kurian, another neighbor, said the rats may have originated in another Conklin St. house, long vacant, and spread out to other properties after construction began there about four months ago.
He and other residents say that, since then, they’ve spent hundreds of dollars on traps, poison and professional exterminators, with mixed results.
After that effort, Kurian said he no longer saw rats on his own property. But other nearby property owners weren’t so lucky.
Zeblisky said he’d recently had to cut out the grape vines he’d grown in his back yard and remove the bird feeder, both possible sources of food for the rats.
Fed or not, the rats could attack his visiting granddaughter, he feared.
Neighbors said the woman lived alone. Not long ago, Zeblisky said, he suggested to her that she discard some of the containers she used for storage. She declined, he said.
As a reporter visited on Thursday, the woman leaned on a walker in her backyard and wept. Several people who said they were from her church stood with her, along with a woman who identified herself as the homeowner’s sister. None gave their names.
“We’re trying to help her,” the sister said. “We’re all trying to help. Unfortunately, it’s gone on too long.”