The mother of the 1-year-old boy who was allegedly bitten by a rat in his sleep amid a disgusting infestation inside a New York City public housing building is demanding a complete and thorough fix.
"They need to take everybody out of this building and really need to get to this rat problem," said Asia Clemente, a tenant in the Claremont Consolidation Complex in the Bronx. "Don't just cover up the holes and tell us, 'When you see another one, call us back.'"
Clemente first told News 4 New York she found a rat biting her toddler son's stomach while he was sleeping Monday morning. She thinks the rat was gnawing at the feeding tube attached to the stomach of baby Daniel, who suffers from chronic lung disease and other health problems.
The rats, she believes, are "smelling the milk that comes out when we disconnect [the tube]," said Clemente.
She took her son to the hospital and he was put on antibiotics. Returning home Tuesday, "his stomach is very tender due to being bit for the second time, so it's kind of hard feeding him and giving him medicine since he's crying, doesn't want to be touched," she said.
Complaints about rats overrunning homes inside NYCHA's Claremont complex have exploded since last week, when a basement garbage compactor was shut down, displacing the rats and driving them upward. One video taken last week shows a group of rats popping out from behind a washing machine and scampering across the kitchen sink, one right after another. The family in that apartment boarded up the kitchen, fearful the rats would attack their dog.
"There were as many rats in that apartment as there are in a sewer," said councilman Ritchie Torres. "I don't believe that NYCHA is just now learning it was this bad."
"They come out here, run around here. This is their playground," said tenant Jessica de Jesus.
Torres is now calling for an investigation into how the rat problem got so bad both inside and outside people's homes in the complex. NYCHA said it shut down the compactor room last week so that it could aggressively fight the existing complaints of infestation. But the basement is important to residents because that's where Con Edison meters are located -- and since the rats prevent workers from going into the basement to read the meters, the utility has been sending estimated bills to customers.
One family said they were charged $458 for one month. On one notice, the utility said it will charge an extra $25 if they don't get access to the meter.
"I'm not sure what I am paying for is very accurate at all," said Clemente.
Clemente said her family arrived at Claremont to escape rats in another NYCHA building. After NYCHA saw her story on News 4 New York Monday night, the agency contacted her on Tuesday in order to schedule a meeting about finding a new place to live.
As for Con Edison, the utility said Tuesday it will reimburse any fees that residents incurred because it couldn't read the meters. Con Ed also said it had reached out to NYCHA since the summer saying it needed the problem fixed immediately so that workers could do their job.
In a statement Monday, NYCHA spokesman Michael Giardina said, "Our residents should not have to live in these conditions. Since this first came to our attention, we have taken aggressive steps to address the current infestation by eliminating rodent access to the building and the apartments, which will also keep future rodents away. We apologize to our residents and will continue to vigilantly monitor this situation."