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CBS2 Investigates: Roosevelt Island Residents Don't Buy Claim That Rat Problem Didn't Start On School Property

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The city Department of Education said this week that the root of the problem of rats running rampant at a school on Roosevelt Island is not on school property.

CBS2's Reena Roy has been investigating, and as she reported Tuesday evening, neighbors disagree.

Children as young as 5 years old were enjoying recess at P.S./I.S. 217 Roosevelt Island Tuesday. But a closer look at the grounds revealed a rat creeping right near the playground entrance.

"It's worrisome to see rats around the school where the young children are playing," said resident Claire Krupka.

CBS2 returned to the Roosevelt Island school for the second consecutive day Tuesday. But times, the rodents were spotted within just minutes – scurrying all over the schoolyard, running across railings, and sometimes flooding the area.

On Monday, the Department of Education told CBS2 an inspection showed there are no rats inside the school building. The department also said the issue is island-wide and did not originate on school property.

"Around my building, I do not see swarms of rats," one resident said.

CBS2's mission Tuesday was to look for rats in other areas. Roy and her crew walked up and down the island, and to another private school nearby – but no other rats were found. People on Roosevelt Island said like any part of the city, they do see rats occasionally – especially by the water – but nothing like the situation at the school.

"We've just never seen this. I've never been in a place where I've had 35 rats n my life," said Frank Ferance of the Roosevelt Island Residents Association.

Despite saying the problem was across the island on Monday, on Tuesday a DOE representative admitted the department is only aware of a rat problem in the area surrounding the school.

"The DOE is really not interested in the community," Farance said.

Neighbors said the school has been leaving trash bags out in the open after lunch, giving the rats a feast. But now, the DOE plans on using rat-resistant bins and pouring concrete around the school perimeter this week.

An infectious disease specialist said rat colonies can, of course be dangerous – and while direct contact or a bite is unlikely, it is possible.

"I think they should certainly be concerned about the volume of the rats, because when there are more there's increased likelihood that the child could be exposed," said Peter Shearer, medical director at the emergency department at Mount Sinai Hospital.

The Department of Health said it has also been working with school officials to stop the infestation.

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