Two Days After Community Pressure Forced the Issue

DOE Moves to Bury PS/IS 217's Rat Hometown

Updated 2 years ago David Stone
DOE crew plowing over PS/IS 217's huge rat metropolis
DOE crew plowing over PS/IS 217's huge rat metropolis
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

Weeks of pressure from the Roosevelt Island community finally brought results as the Department of Education sent a crew today to plow over PS/IS 217's rat colony, just two days after WCBS 2 and WPIX 11 exposed explanations from the school administration as, at best, evasions of responsibility.

It took weeks of public pressure and media exposure, but today, the Department of Education finally took responsibility for the growing rat colony at PS/IS 217.

Staff from the Roosevelt Island Day Nursery, the school's next door neighbor that first raised a red flag of alarm about the teeming rat metropolis as its population exploded unimpeded into the surrounding neighborhood, looked on with relief as a crew with picks, shovels and a bulldozer dug up and plowed over the area where dozens of rats could be seen daily.

RIOC proactively assigned Angel Lopez to stand by in case additional help was needed.

Lead by Frank Farance, the Roosevelt Islander blog and The Daily worked to keep what the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene calls a "severe crisis" front and center as the school's administration, its PTA and the Main Street WIRE worked to douse concerns about a rapidly mounting health threat.

Roosevelt Island blog publisher Rick O'Conor helped expand coverage online newspaper dna info and, eventually, two days of extensive coverage on WCBS 2 and WPIX 11, this week.

Numerous residents and concerned parents stepped up the pressure with email, telephone and Twitter campaigns targeting public officials.

In the end, the only public official to actually do anything effective was RIOC's President and CEO Susan Rosenthal, who got involved early and offered whatever assistance the school wanted.

Public officials with more direct accountability for the school, City Council Member Ben Kallos and Borough President Gale A. Brewer were essentially ineffective, Kallos for his inability to get action from the school and Brewer who exercised the gift of invisibility used by politicians afraid of the shade.

Because our elected officials were next to useless, resident diligence and pressure was crucial in getting action.

Tomorrow, the former rat haven will be paved over, and hopefully, the DOE will work with its neighbors to deal with any residual effects, especially the threat of displaced rodents migrating into other locations. 

RIOC is already on top of it, and Manhattan Park Management has enacted a plan to make sure its buildings remain safe.

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