Officials: Rat problem tied to building boom – Boston Herald

Boston’s building boom is forcing hordes of rats out into the streets and into neighborhoods, and alarmed city officials plan to crack down on problem properties that are harboring the vermin before they become a bigger health hazard.

“It’s a real public health threat,” said John Meany, the Inspectional Services Department’s director of environmental services. He attributed a sudden spike in rat complaints to the host of large-scale building projects taking place across the city — and the fact that people are out enjoying the weather in the midst of a breeding season delayed by a long winter.

“This issue is high up on the mayor’s list,” said Meany, while touring an unkempt lot on Everett Street in Allston that abutters say is teeming with rats. “All we can ask is that people call us when they see something or see a property that isn’t being taken care of.”

After speaking with neighbors who reported seeing dozens of rats scattering into their backyards from the vacant lot, Meany said he intends to cite property owner Jim Beninati and vowed to return today with a team of inspectors.

“This is something we take very seriously and these property owners need to be held accountable,” Meany said. “We want them to care for the properties they own in the same way they would their own homes.”

Beninati, who plans to erect six townhouses on the property, said he was shocked to learn he might be cited and added, “The rats must be coming from somewhere else.”

“I go down there once or twice a week and I’ve never seen a rat down there,” Beninati said. Of the neighbors, he said, “Those rats are being seen in their yards, not mine.”

It’s no secret Boston has a huge rat population — a recent Animal Planet article ranked the Hub as runner-up in a list of the world’s worst cities for rats, second only to New York City. Compounding the issue is the fact that problem property owners face only a slap on the wrist from the Boston Housing Court for repeated violations, with fines maxing out at $300 a day, something District 4 Councilor Charles Yancey said councilors should address.

“This is an issue I’m really concerned about for the entire city and we need to see what kind of support we can give (health officials) to address it,” Yancey said. “We’ve definitely seen an increase in complaints about rodents in my district and people are reporting seeing very big rats.”

“The people of Boston should know that the Inspectional Services Department is monitoring all construction, ensuring they are in compliance with all of the applicable codes and regulations, including rodent control,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh said yesterday.

District 6 Councilor Matt O’Malley said he recently met with the ISD’s new commissioner, William “Buddy” Christopher, to discuss the rat issue and learned that “numbers are on the rise.”

“This can be one of the results of having so many large-scale building projects and I think there’s a sense of shame people feel when they see it,” O’Malley said. “They need to know it is all about being outspoken about it, and contacting your local city officials when they see something because this is something we can fix.”

Officials: Rat problem tied to building boom – Boston Herald
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