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Subway employees take on rat problem

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 9/29/2011, 4:26 p.m.

Although straphangers have complained about rats in the subway for decades, will the City of New York pay attention when subway workers voice their displeasure?

Last week, members of Transit Workers Union Local 100 protested at the Parsons/Archer subway station in the Jamaica section of Queens, challenging the Metropolitan Transit Authority to attack the seemingly increasing problem of rats-which seem to get bolder by the day-in the subways.

According to union officials, TWU workers displayed a large banner during the protest that showed more than 600 petitions collected. The workers also blamed recent budget cuts for the lack of proper cleanup within the subway system.

"Cutbacks mean the rats are back!" the crowd chanted.

Local 100 has even created a website, www.ratfreesubways.com, to gather more signatures in order to puts the MTA on notice that it needs to increase the number of trash pickups, seal more rat holes and purchase bigger and better garbage cans. The petition can also be found on the activist website Change.org.

According to an NBC interview with Paul Flores, a subway station agent of 12 years, trash was picked up "every couple of days, [but] now it's four or five days before they pick up the garbage and the rats just basically call that home."

YouTube videos of rats on crowded E trains, rats running up a man's leg and rats on subway tracks and train platforms have received thousands of hits over the past year. The MTA has responded to the clamor for a bigger cleanup effort along the subway system. "We are working with the city in an effort to find more effective ways of addressing the rodent problem," MTA officials said in a publicly released statement.

This is just the opening salvo in Local 100's campaign to force the MTA to take the rat problem seriously and commit the personnel and resources necessary to fix it.