Boston rat rampage

By CHRIS FARAONE  |  November 9, 2009

As for hardcore rodent-abatement programs, Harvard’s appears to be the only show in town that comes close to following the Boston Plan designed by Colvin one decade ago. A survey of its business-school campus — situated across Western Avenue from the science-complex site — reveals several sophisticated traps.

Some critics are adamant that more can be done. Following a mid May “Rodent Infestation Community Informational Meeting” at the Jackson Mann Community Center in Union Square, one open letter that was widely circulated online proposed a “full-blown war on rats,” arguing that municipal efforts are woefully insufficient. After all, several tactics, including garbage control, have been in place since Harvard broke ground, yet rats maintain a noticeable presence.

School spokesman Poupore, however, says his crew has caught only nine rats on that site and on adjoining properties since 2007. A year-in-the-making, Harvard-funded plan orchestrated by city, community, and school representatives to provide 2172 Allston-Brighton residencies with uniform sanitary trash containers will also be implemented starting this week — just in time to coincide with further excavation along Soldiers Field Road.


Down the rodent hole?
Though Colvin and fellow expert Dale Kaukeinan determined two years ago that Boston was the third most at-risk US city for infestation, the duo’s 2009 follow-up report, which was released this past month, ranks Beantown at number seven, behind New York, Atlanta, Houston, Louisville, Philadelphia, and Chicago, in that order. According to their research, Boston, despite being “an old and densely populated city,” “has increased its spending on its infrastructure to improve its overall standing.”

It’s a jump that only the cheeriest of optimists could celebrate — and one that is likely not being toasted over sambuca shots on Prince Street or Irish car bombs in Oak Square. Still, it’s a tangible improvement from 2007, when Inside Edition’s “Rat Patrol” team found rodents frolicking after hours at Ruth’s Chris and McCormick & Schmick’s downtown. According to principal ISD health inspector John Meaney, who has battled rats beneath Boston for 30 years, his department is winning the rodent war despite such impediments as an increased number of abandoned properties and mild winters that fail to kill off a substantial amount of the pest population.

Minor victories aside, though, there are indications that the nastiest is yet to come (even if Boston’s rodent-mitigation squad will see a slight funding increase, despite overall ISD budget cuts.) Market trends hardly suggest that lending and development will accelerate; construction in Harvard’s Allston has not reached a proverbial screeching halt — and the school appears to be diligent in addressing rodent matters — but the dozen or so carpenters working on the mammoth site make for a good pissing-in-the-ocean analogy. As for the countless other projects in perpetual progress, their rat-management programs fall under ISD oversight, according to BRA spokeswoman Susan Elsbree.

For a short time in history, Boston was years ahead of other crowded, dank metropolises when it came to targeting rats. Colvin’s fierce preventative approach may have been overshadowed by multiple Big Dig fiascos, but, in a remarkable feat (considering how much land was disrupted), his exhaustive rodent holocaust was near completion. Needless to say, that temporary progress has since eroded, and there seems little chance of funding a comparable systematic annihilation
any time soon.

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