INSIDE EDITION Investigates Rat Infestation in New York City Parks

Rodents have been taking over popular parks where children play.  Can anything be done to stop this from becoming a planet of the rats?    Lisa Guerrero went on rat patrol to find out.

They're repulsive and out of control. When night falls on the Big Apple, hordes of rats race out to feast. And you might be surprised where these rat parties are taking place.

A beautiful park is filled with kids at play every day, but what many parents don't know is that the park is also swarming with rats every night.

When the INSIDE EDITION Rat Patrol visited historic Tompkins Square Park on Manhattan's Lower East Side we spotted hundreds of rats climbing, crawling, scurrying and scaling everything from trash cans to park benches. They have even infested the trees.

The infestation here has gotten so bad the disease spreading rodents have colonized the playgrounds as well.

"I'm speechless. That's absolutely disgusting," said one frequent park-goer when we told her about the problem.  

Bruce Colvin is a world renowned expert on rats and how to control them. He toured the park with us and says careless litterbugs and the city's failure to take action has turned this park into a rat paradise.

"This is one of the worst situations I've seen," said Colvin.

INSIDE EDITION's Lisa Guerrero asked, "Is this a safe place for children to play?"

"I don't think so. Look at the number of rats that are here and they are moving bacteria through the environment," said Colvin.

Several other nearby residents were shocked.

"I see thousands of them every night," said a man who regularly walks his dog through the park.

"Gross, I've never seen so many rats," said one young lady

Another passerby summed the scene up quite succinctly: "Like Planet of the Apes, it's planet of the rats!"

The rats certainly weren't camera-shy either.

So who's to blame for this massive rat infestation? Believe it or not, the city has refused to put out poison because of an endangered hawk that calls the park home. But Colvin says that's no excuse, saying there are plenty of other proactive measures the city could take to help eradicate the rats.

And Tompkins Square Park isn't the only park in New York City overrun by rats. Hordes of rats have been spotted at other popular parks across Manhattan.

At New York's historic Washington Square Park, a rat-pack dozens strong has made a home right in a tree. Night after night, they scurry out to feed on all the food and debris left behind.

And at a park off 5th Avenue, the avenue of avenues, next to the famed Plaza Hotel, the bushes were alive with rodents.

"I saw one of the biggest rats of the night right here," said Colvin.

Our cameras caught one rat as big as a rabbit scurrying for cover.

Guerrero asked New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg why the city isn't doing more to fight off the rats.

"Is there anything the city can be doing better to alleviate the problem?" asked Guerrero.

"Rats are a problem in every big city in the world," said Mayor Bloomberg. "There's no evidence that there's an outbreak of a rat infestation today. And I will say I fail to see how it's a story," Bloomberg also remarked.

But it sure seems as if the rats are making these parks home.

"Is there any way to win the war on rats?" Guerrero asked Colvin.

Colvin said, "The war on rats can be won, but it takes hard work and relentless action."

Although almost 70% of the city's exterminators were laid off last year, the Mayor says the city is taking the problem seriously.