Thirty holes offer shelter for rats being generously fed by the school

Why is nothing being done about PS/IS 217's thriving rat colony?

Updated 1 year ago David Stone
May 24th, 2017, 4:15 p.m. School trash has already been attacked by rats in broad daylight.
May 24th, 2017, 4:15 p.m. School trash has already been attacked by rats in broad daylight.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

Seeing it, taking pictures, I still find it hard to believe what's going on in broad daylight, rats thriving in huge numbers, aided and abetted by PS/IS 217's personnel and the unwillingness of anyone in authority to care enough to do anything about it.

My title is misleading, I realize. Someone is actually doing something about the rat colony feasting at PS/IS 217. The school itself is helping the rodents grow and prosper. You can see from this photo gallery that dozens, possibly hundreds of happy rats are fattening up thanks to the school's generosity.

After RIOC did its job, clearing parked cars out of a fire lane meant to provide emergency access to the school and Manhattan Park's next door high rise, I went to the school to take a photo for an article I'd written about community progress in dealing with the school's bad behavior.

(RIOC also earlier rescued a memorial plaque dedicated to Alice Childress from the school's yard that was in danger of being obliterated by free parkers.)

After Frank Farance complimented a series of articles in The Daily about illegal parking, desecration of the plaque, environmental abuse and rat feeding at the school with a devastating post, including stomach-turning photographic evidence, numerous members of the RI Parents' Network swung into action, placing telephone calls and going directly to the school's principal, Mandana Beckman, to complain about the imminent threat to health and safety of their children.

City officials seem to have been nudged into a discomfort zone after their neglect of the problems was exposed. This is not to suggest that they've actually done anything or acted anywhere nearly as promptly as the parents, but at least, they started talking about a site visit.

Meanwhile, rats fatten themselves, entering and exiting from approximately 30 visible holes adjacent to the school wall. The entry points apparently lead directly under and likely into the school where Roosevelt Island's public school kids learn and eat meals every day.

Also exposed to the rat population is Manhattan Park's Section 8 housing at 2 and 4 River Road. Many of the high rise's residents are disabled. The Roosevelt Island Day Nursery, housed on the building's first floor, cares for pre-schoolers about twenty feet distant from the rat colony.

Official Indifference

Instead of cleared up garbage, when I got to the school at around 4:00, I found Farance already on the scene with his own camera, documenting the collapse of soil covering the bulk of the rat colony which is nestled next to the school cafeteria. About a dozen large holes lead directly toward the building, under and probably inside. (It's unlikely rodents would gather there without food being immediately available.)

After taking a tour of the 30 or so active rat holes next to the school, we looked at trash bags tossed into the rat colony by school personnel. Effortlessly, we found a half-dozen that already showed evidence of rats chewing in to feast in broad daylight. One was directly below the emergency exit for the cafeteria.

School Principal Mandana Beckman previously justified tearing down five healthy trees in the school's lawn by claiming the roots were homes to rats. Obviously, that was untrue. The rat holes were dug into and under the school building, not out on the lawn.

"You know what else I saw?" Farance asked. "Guess who's car is parked right in front of the other emergency exit?"


"The head custodian."

Farance verified his discovery with photographs, including a parking permit signed by Beckman.

Then, as if on script, the Principal exited the building and got into her own car. She didn't approach us, although we were on school grounds, to inquire about our business in being there, but since she parked within a few steps of the trash bags and the rat colony they fed, she probably had a pretty good idea.

A conversation she had with the mother of a seven-year-old who attends the school explains her indifference. The upset parent was worried about sending her child to school "after seeing 40 rats in a matter of minutes."

Beckman, she said, "told me what is happening on the other side of the wall of the cafeteria was not her responsibility and that if I felt like not sending my seven year all to school, it was something that she would understand."

What is happening on the other side of the wall of the cafeteria was not Beckman's responsibility... Really? Who, then?

If the School Won't Act, Who Will?

Because RIOC has already gone as far as it can go in clearing the fire lane of parked cars - as a State agency, they lack jurisdiction over City property - the City is the next level of enforcement. Unfortunately, the Department of Education, with immediate authority over the school, has demonstrated a yawning lack of interest.

The Department of Health has pushed some papers around with a promise to convene a tour next week. Meanwhile, the rats are a clear and present danger to children, residents of Manhattan Park and the RI Day Nursery.

So far, only Frank Farance on a platform provided by the Roosevelt Islander blog and a coalition of concerned parents from the RI Parents' Network have taken action. Council Member Ben Kallos has probed several sources but has not gotten effective responses from any City agency.

You can help empower the parents actively seeking ways to protect their children by signing a petition at this web address.

As further information develops, we will keep you informed.


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