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Rats! Red Hook vendors may have caused Gowanus rodent problem

Bond Street resident Paola Defonis is ticked off by huge rats that have started swarming over her backyard ever since the Red Hook Vendors started parking their trucks in a parking lot nearby. The rats, of course, have been pleased.
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They may be delighting customers in Red Hook, but the Latino food vendors are causing indigestion in Gowanus.

That’s because many of the vendors park their food trucks overnight in a lot on Bond and Union streets, across from a row of residential homes — and when those trucks pull in, the area’s rodent population loosens its belt.

“We never had rats before the vendors starting parking there,” said longtime Bond Street resident Paola Defonis. “But they’re all over the block now.”

Improper truck cleaning and trash storage is the root of the problem, she said.

The vendors kicked off their season on Saturday, offering a veritable cornucopia of Latin fare. But it appears that gran ratas also has a taste for tacos and tamales.

Defonis caught one monstrous beast on tape, capturing it as it blithely sauntered through her backyard in broad daylight. She said that she’s also seen two or more of the creatures engaged in what scientists call social play behavior.

“They were playing like cats,” she recalled, adding that they show no fear of humans during their rambunctious rodent hijinks — or any other time.

Parking lot manager Mohamed Gamil said the problem has nothing to do with maintenance at the lot. “It’s not us — the canal is right there,” he said, stretching an arm towards the fetid Gowanus. “It’s the whole neighborhood. They come from everywhere.”

Even so, Gamil said, he said the lot recently hired a different exterminator — after health inspectors issued a warning.

“We did a lot of things, plugging all the holes,” he said, adding that lot workers have been making an effort to better handle trash. “Even if you come at nighttime now, you won’t see any rats,” he claimed.

Cesar Fuentes, the executive director of the Food Vendors Committee of Red Hook Park, said the lots where vendors choose to park are regulated and have their own protocols in terms of maintenance and clean-up.

“Unfortunately, rodent infestation is inherent to city life,” Fuentes said. “It’s a shared concern, as everyone has a bit of responsibility, whether it better upkeep by the building owner or property maintenance and extermination.”

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Reader Feedback

Jason from Red Hook says:
So i understand from this article that the food is rat infested. Great job BP promoting rat food sold by unclean people. Gross.
May 5, 2010, 9:53 am
Haro from Gowanus says:
These rats are a huge problem and it is great to see coverage. However, it is NOT only food trucks from Red Hook. There are many different food trucks using that space. Schnitzel and Things parks there, as does that crazy looking dumpling truck. Surprised no one has made a video. I wouldn't eat at any truck parked there. Tons of rats and a mountain of garbage? No thanks.
May 5, 2010, 10:37 am
Marcos says:
This is in respond to your "RAT" Red Hook F Vendors article.
1-It is grossly irresponsible of Mrs. Paola'Defonis to point fingers at the Red Hook food vendors with out any supporting evidence.
2-If I'm not mistaken only two of the RH Vendors park their trucks at this facilities and these trucks are not in used from monday to friday. Their trash is put in a 30 Yrds garbage container inside the RH Park by their maintenance company.
Perhaps Mrs. Paola Defonis should take walk across her house to see the Gowanus canal.
I believe she should apology immediately for this serious defamation.
May 5, 2010, 3:04 pm
tony from gowanus says:
sorry marco ,you are 100% wrong,come on now ,been living here for over 20 years ,rats have no business swimming in the canal ,no food for them there ,problem comes from the vendors,no evidence needed open and shut case
May 5, 2010, 3:19 pm
Nick from Red Hook says:
Last year I saw a rat on my street. One rat. And I had a fit. I screamed and ran inside to call 311. I made a rat report based on the solo spotting of the critter, and I never saw him again. Maybe 311 really works!
According to an old urban myth, there is one rat for each person in New York City. Although this statistic is called into question by researchers every so often, the city’s own Department of Health cites the one-rat-per-person statistic at times.
http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/30/26/30_26rats.html
Go to the above link & Read this article. Was this created by the RHFVendors
RHF vendors
May 5, 2010, 3:23 pm
Mike from Park Slope says:
In defense of my latinos friends, I do not think this vendors are the problem.
All Commissary are regulated & inspected by the Department of Health and mental Hygiene. This is where this lady should have started with a 311 call and put a complaint about the facility and not to blame this vendors which I am sure has not to do with this problem.
May 5, 2010, 3:53 pm
Maria from Red Hook says:
I must say I do not think the vendors are the problem. Whoever says there was never a rat problem there is crazy. There always was and always will be rat problems anywhere around the canal. The vendors have strict rules as far as where garbage is kept in their commissaries and it is checked regular. Perhaps the residents here must also make an effort instead of pointing fingers. I only use metal trash cans. I see many people in the area throwing plastic bags to the curb and guess what people?? Rat are in those bags when u are sleeping. We all need to work together and fix this problem. Perhaps if this person who seems to know an awful lot about rats tried to find a solution, maybe even work with this Mohamed guy, the neighborhood would be a better place. I an sure he does not want rats as much as she does. Work together people, work together~!
May 5, 2010, 8:31 pm
Neighbor from Carroll Gardens says:
The words spoken by Ms. Difonis were was taken out of context by the journalist. Ms Difonis never said it was the latino carts from Red Hook only. It is EVERY cart with every type of food that is stored in there. Just to clarify. Before the carts were stored there thre were not many rats. Now we see them every night. I know Ms. Difonis and Ive spoken with her about this.
May 5, 2010, 8:34 pm
Pamela from Sunset Park says:
I'm more than sure the Red Hook vendors are NOT the only food vendors using this commissary, of which only 2 use this facility, so to point fingers at one group is not only ignorant but discriminatory.
Obviously she just needed some attention by picking out the one group that has been recently publicized. Next time she should try acting a little more mature and call 311 or directly complain to the commissary instead of playing the blame game.
May 5, 2010, 8:38 pm
Mikey B from Bond St says:
I live down the block from this place on Bond and while we have always had a problem here a few weeks ago it was a little more than usual. I went and spoke with Gamal and he was a gentleman. He said he noticed it also and because the health dept was very strict with them he hired an additional exterminator. He even showed me the paid bills from them. I have to say, whatever they did, the problem seems to be under control. We here must be honest with ourselves and say we will never be 100% rat free but I think we are dealing these guys an unfair hand.The guy seems to be really concerned and it looks to me that he is doing what he can to stop the problem. The picture of the lot looks pretty clean to me and everytime I walk or drive buy I always see 2-3 guys in the yard cleaning up. That's just the way I am seeing it guys.
May 5, 2010, 8:59 pm
Maris from Sunset P says:
I hope that this is a misunderstanding, and if it is Mrs. P. Difonsi got her 15 min of fame by pointing fingers at a particular group of Latino people, which had a great return this past weekend after a long well deserve 6 months off. At the same time her comments will hurt the vendors business at Red Hook park.
May 5, 2010, 9:03 pm
Madeleyn from Carrol Gardens says:
Okay Paola Defonis should not apologize because we have been living here in her building for 12 years and we have never had a rat problem until the food venders came. So before you assume, Marco, you better take under consideration the circumstances.
May 5, 2010, 10:37 pm
John from Bklyn says:
I just saw this video on the news and I thought it was funny that the only video they had was rats in that guys yard. If the rats were coming from those vendors, why was there no video or pictures of rats on their property. I agree with Mikey B the lot looked well maintained to me also. Maybe the rats are coming from that guy on the news!!
May 6, 2010, 12:54 am
Cesar from Red Hook says:
I would like to take an opportunity and address concerns/allegations brought by a recent article that appeared in the Brooklyn Paper/NY Post, on May 5th which headlines “Rats! Red Hook vendors may have caused Gowanus rodent problem”.

First, I would like to clear any misconceptions caused by this headliner and assure you that some of our vendors who currently park their food trucks in a commissary located on Bond & Union Streets, Brooklyn are not causing the Gowanus rodent problem as alleged by a concerned community resident quoted in the article.

I believe it is also important to clarify that our vendors are in compliance with DOHMH regulations and clean, sanitize, & park their food trucks in a commissary approved & sanctioned by the DOHMH for proper storage & maintenance of such trucks—which, by the way is not a lot.

It is sad to learn that while there are many food trucks and carts serviced at this commissary, the allegations brought by this article focus exclusively on the Red Hook vendors, of whom two members park & service their trucks on location. We feel this allegation is biased & based on assumptions rather than facts; they lack credibility and concise evidence. It is simply hard to believe that a group that started operations less than a week ago could be responsible for a wide infestation in such short time span. And while video footage may point out to a real problem affecting some residents of the Gowanus community, it lacks any real evidence that suggests this infestation originated from the Red Hook vendors’ trucks.

We want to thank commissary manager Mohammed Gamil for his honesty and help in clarifying this situation of great concern by openly explaining cleaning protocols & focusing in the actual facts that may have actually caused this rodent problem affecting some residents in the Gowanus community.

While maintaining my previous statement that points to an unfortunate reality inherent to city life, the Red Hook Food Vendors stand in solidarity with the residents of Gowanus community affected by this rodent infestation. If need be, we look forward to engage in conversation with concerned parties & local community leaders to address common problems & look for mutually beneficial solutions.

We invite the author of this article to avoid presenting sensationalist headliners that use our name to guarantee broad media coverage, but at the end of the day only help promote controversies & divisionism in the community. We hope that instead the focus is placed in helping community residents that scream for help in solving their problems or guide them through established protocols like 311 or local community boards. That it promotes the understanding and better relationship between residents and local business owners who are striving to do the right thing. Last, we ask that it respects the hard work, and contributions that local entrepreneurs like the Red Hook Food Vendors, who for more than 36 years have brought the best of themselves to their customers & community.
May 6, 2010, 3:36 am
Elizabeth from Red Hook says:
Wow! When I began surveying in Gowanus back in 2005 I was warned of the "sewer" rats which I frequently encountered. The problem with this article is the title, if it had said vending trucks without specifically naming the Red Hook vendors it would not have gotten so much press. It is sad that the writer felt he had to target one vendor when the problem, if there is one, is obviously not caused by one vendor. Congrats, you got your headline, but at what expense. It is hard enought to do business in NY without being slandered by the press with no real proof or facts.
May 6, 2010, 1:35 pm
JC&FABY from Costumers says:
We have enjoy the Reed Hook Vendors' food every weekend, since last year. We have seen them at the end of the day work, when all garbage is collected in
several containers at the selling point, but not at the parking point -big difference. We think that the rats infestation may come from the Gowanus' surroundings food restaurants, and this is a highlighting flag for this community. The Reed Hook Vendors move their trucks far distance from Gowanus, where they cook the food and at the end of the day they take home all left overs - of course, to feed their families.

The truks look clean in and out; therefore, It must
be clean every week.

Thanks
May 6, 2010, 11:04 pm
Jason from Red hook says:
What I think a lot of people are misunderstanding is that the BP is not implying that the trucks contain food which attracts the rats to the area, or at least sustains the rats that already live there. What tehy are saying is the vendors are raising the rats, to subsequently slaughter them and sell their meat to hungry people. Rat farming, and rat tacos are a beautiful and ancient part of Latino culture, and to ignore or disparage them is frankly just racism.
I would like to celebrate my hispanic brothers and sisters with a fresh rat taco,or maybe a quesadilla con ratos, and not continue to hate them for the spread of disease or unhygenic droppings left behind by their little friends.
May 11, 2010, 10:08 am
K from Williamsburg says:
Saturday, August 14th 2010.. I was a witness to the NY Health Department visiting the park to do their job. They were without question drilling every single employee, and looking through every damn corner of their trucks. I've recently become friends with many of the vendors and they allowed me to watch how the NY Health Department does their thing. The Health Department is so strict that an owner of a truck can be fined $300 just for not wearing a HAT. So....guess what I saw Sunday, August 15th. Every amazing truck vendor there, selling food. Why? Because they're clean, they're family, they're TRADITION FOR OVER 30 YEARS and that's before half of you on this page ever lived in the area. Stop pointing fingers. Oh and half of you on this page eat at fast food joints, take out or stay in places and you never get to watch them cook your food. At the Red Hook Vendors you get to watch every ounce of your food cooked in front of you.
Aug. 15, 2010, 10:09 pm

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