PASSAIC — The city’s worries about a resurgence of vermin on its East Side can be chalked up to the law of unintended consequences, officials said.
Even as the City Council passed its redevelopment plan for portions of Market Street on Thursday, the administration was trying to come up with ways to address concerns about raccoons, possums and rodents in and around the city’s Bistro District.
Two factors are at work, Mayor Hector Lora said.
One involves redevelopment projects such as Big Apple West, 2 Market St. and other properties along the roadway that may be flushing out some vermin from buildings that have been or are being rehabilitated, he said. Extensive sewer work also is also stirring up the animals, he said.
The other is the city’s yearlong efforts to reduce its feral cat population, which kept the population of critters such as rats and mice in check. If they are unchecked, there is a real concern that these populations will burgeon. During the past year, the city has been trapping and neutering the cats.
The city will attempt to combat the issue with vermin-proof garbage cans and a prohibition on the use of plastic bags to dispose of food waste. Because Market Street is squarely in the Urban Enterprise Zone, the mayor said, he hopes to use UEZ funds to buy the cans.
“We are trying to be proactive,” Lora said. “The space is limited, so you can’t use dumpsters.”
There is a real concern, he said, that if left unchecked, the infestation problem may worsen and be devastating to the city’s Bistro District, which has about a dozen restaurants.
“They are a bunch of mom and pops,” Lora said. “They are just recovering from COVID.”
Food left in bags will attract mice, rats, raccoons, squirrels and possums, he said.
Market Street commercial zone
According to the city’s redevelopment plan, the entire commercial corridor along Market Street is in the UEZ and is zoned Commercial Residential High Density. There are about 60 businesses along the street.Most of the businesses are very small, with one to four employees.
The redevelopment of Big Apple West, which consists of a mixed-use development at 2 Market St., a high-end residential building along the banks of the Passaic River and other redeveloped properties with large warehouses and housing units on the East Side, will provide the grist for a vibrant restaurant/commercial area.
The city’s East Side redevelopment plan, to which the Market Street district was added about eight years ago, provides hope that strips with restaurants, such as the Bistro District, will become a local destination for diners and those searching for ethnic foods and other specialty items.
To improve these areas’ chances of success, the city needs to head off problems before they get out of hand, officials said. The city has had “a few” complaints about vermin along Market Street, Lora said. It is imperative that as many food sources as possible are eliminated, he said.
“If eateries put garbage out in bags and those bags are opened, that is inviting every single kind of animal,” Lora said.
The city may consider allowing minted garbage bags, which may deter animals from ripping them open.
The city administration said it hopes to get a new ordinance before the City Council for its consideration in the coming weeks.