Rat Rally: Tenants Bring 20-Foot Rat to Protest Against Rat Infestation in their buildings on the Upper West Side
Rat Infested Restaurants Have Seriously Violated Food Safety Standards & The Public is Never Informed.
“How do rat infested restaurants have ‘A’ ratings? This is outright consumer fraud,” says Kirby Sommers.
“The two rats who almost ran over this woman’s feet were Owen and Zoe, but I’ve also got Charlotte, Jackson, Wyatt, and Nora as the possible offenders” Sommers added.
Kirby Sommers, President of the Cornfeld Tenants’ Association (CTA) has begun looking at popular baby names: Liam, Emma, Olivia, Mason, Lucas, Jason and Ava are top on her list. Is Ms. Sommers expecting? No. She has decided to name the 200 or 300 rats that have infested 143 West 69 Street and its sister building 2020 Broadway on the Upper West Side in Manhattan.
Arthur Cornfeld, landlord of both buildings has, according to Ms. Sommers, created a “rat infestation” by allowing Noi Due, West Side Restaurant and Barcibo Enoteca, who occupy space in the buildings, to use a shared alley as a drop off location for their food deliveries.
“Noi Due is probably the worst offender leaving open food crates sitting outside unattended for hours with rats having first dibs at the juicy red cherry tomatoes, the moist red onions, the creamy sweet potatoes, and all the other ingredients they use to feed their unsuspecting patrons.” Sommers points to photo after photo of unattended food pallets sitting on the concrete ground in the open basement which she knows is covered in rat and mouse droppings.
Residents who live toward the rear of the two buildings and who have witnessed the growing health hazards for both themselves and the unsuspecting public have complained to the landlord for years with no results.
“How do you get the attention of a landlord who wants to run us out of our apartments and who hasn’t lifted a finger?” Sommers asks then raises an eyebrow before answering her own question. “You bring a 20 foot rat and you park it in front of their buildings. That’s how.”
On March 31st, on a seemingly normal Tuesday a few minutes before 12 noon, an inflatable 20-foot rat with a 3ft x 4ft sign leaning against its behemoth belly squared off with the landlord. Across it were the words: “You Brought Rats. Get Rid of the Rats. Get Rid of the Fire Traps. And Get Permits: We Don’t Want to be the Next East Village.”
The giant rat towering over the Noi Due Café scared off a few people who quickly opted out of rat on a stick, and who profusely thanked the small group that gathered to bring this to their attention. “I won’t be eating at any of these restaurants. Ever!” A man in his 50s proclaimed as he quickly sped off. “Keep up the good work!”
Sommers states: “I’ve told the tenants, this is not an issue that is necessarily the restaurants’ fault. It is the fault of the landlord who rented them inadequate space and then decided to rent them more space in the alley.”
Does greed really win over the health and well being of residents and restaurant patrons? “Cornfeld doesn’t get permits, he doesn’t care about the rats, he doesn’t care about anyone’s life,” a resident from another Cornfeld building at 325 West 71st Street fired off to a local reporter.
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer has been fighting rat infestations in New York City restaurants. Earlier this year through a press release Schumer stated FDA violations are not made public and that punishments for violations are too lax.
A restaurant-goer cannot see cross-contamination, improper storage or shell fish tags. When we dine out, we are at the mercy of the restaurant employees, and their conduct directly affects our safety.
The response from the landlord to the Rat Protest was to put a NO TRESPASSING sign in front of the wrought iron door leading to the alley. They also installed 4 surveillance cameras and 1 listening device in the elevator of 143 West 69 Street -- which is where Ms. Sommers has lived since 1981.
“I wish they had taken steps to help us,” expressed a 20-year resident of 2020 Broadway who wishes to remain anonymous. “But all they have done is to create an atmosphere where it is clear they are going to continue doing what they have done for years. They are just not happy they got caught.”
Another resident profusely thanked Sommers who organized the protest: “They have been hosing down the alley for the past two days and I’ve never seen them do this in the two decades I’ve lived here. It looks so clean I can walk out there barefoot.”
The very next day the same resident, while walking her dog past 143 West 69 Street, was forced to abruptly stop as two large rats scampered out from underneath the mountain of garbage bags that regularly line the sidewalk. They zipped past her darting down the stairs that lead into alley where they know more appetizing food awaits.
“The two rats who almost ran over this woman’s feet were Owen and Zoe, but I’ve also got Charlotte, Jackson, Wyatt, and Nora as the possible offenders,” Sommers added.
Cornfeld Tenants Association (CTA) works to improve housing conditions for residents in properties owned by Arthur Cornfeld and Alan Fisher in New York City (aka ABC Properties, ABC Realty, and many other LLCs). Our concerns are both in terms of tenants’ rights and our right for security and equity. Goal? To ensure our voices are heard and to stop our landlord from further endangering our safety and our lives.
Arthur Cornfeld and his son Alex Cornfeld are the developers and partners for the popular Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. They have expanded into Las Vegas, London and Dubai. In addition they own approximately 380 properties -- primarily in New York City.
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- C R Ackley
- Cornfeld Tenants Association
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