To prove the apartment complex he’s long resided in has truly gone to the dogs, Ramon Severino offered up a bag full of rats.
Embroiled in an ongoing tenant dispute with his Riverside Community Management team of landlords over what he insists is an excessive and never-ending rodent problem, Severino was hauled into New York City Housing Court late last week over his refusal to pay $326 in back rent he owes and continues to be stubbornly withholding.
But Severino, a comedian by trade, hardly appeared for his close up empty handed. When his case was finally called, the New York Daily News reports the 52-year-old Hamilton-Heights resident instantly rose and pulled out a plastic bag filled with as many as seven, dead and bloody rats as his Exhibit A testimonial.
“I want the judge to see it so he can order a full inspection,” Severino told quizzical court officers of his eye-raising antics. He estimated his quaint, one-bedroom Section 8 abode alone houses up to as many as 30 rodents at any one time. “They run across my feet,” he added.
“They’re everywhere,” echoed friend and neighbor Anna Salcero. “There are still rats in the closet, in the living room, the bathroom, everywhere.” Salcero later acknowledged that management has previously sent out exterminators to service the building, but each time the persistent rodents return seemingly bigger and more evasive than ever before. “They’re four or five times as bad as last year,” she said.
Severino told Housing Court Judge Jack Stoler he composed his irrefutable evidence by placing glue traps throughout his apartment, eventually cornering the unnerving vermin in varying contraptions before finishing them off by stabbing them with a fork.
As sickened as he was convinced, Judge Stoler quickly ordered a continuance of the case and set Dec. 6 as the next hearing date. Between now and then, Stoler also ordered a full, no-holds-barred inspection of Severino’s home to be conducted by the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
“It was nasty,” Riverside Management attorney Elliot Betances conceded of the clearly shocking evidence he must now seek to overcome. Officers ultimately grabbed the bag from Severino and disposed of it out back of the building.
Though far more dramatically, Severino now joins a growing list of NYC residents who have taken extreme, albeit unorthodox, measures in seeking to rid themselves of all such unwanted wanders in their mist. Early last summer, Bronx residents teamed to mount a campaign throughout their Claremont Consolidated Homes which culminated with residents suing the housing authority amid claims “rats had become as big” as the feet of tenants.
And just last August, Joseph Bolanos installed a diamond-shaped plastic traffic-crossing sign with a big black rat at the center near his Upper West Side apartment that read “RAT XING,” all in an effort to call attention to his neighborhood’s wildly out-of-control infestation issue.
“A woman in the building next door said she could hear the rats outside screaming and screeching,” Bolanos told NBC News. “I’ve heard neighbors thinking someone got attacked outside because they would hear shrieks, but it was just people who were passing by running with the fear of God in them from all of the rats frolicking like it’s Cirque du Soleil.”
As for Severino, officers ultimately calmed the situation, but not before the master showman in him had left his audience clearly craving more. Severino anxiously shared news with enraptured onlookers that his entire repertoire could soon be featured at a venue near them under his stage moniker “Baby Ray.” Later, he also told Stoler he now shares his apartment with two other equally inconvenienced dwellers — a pair of Shih Tzus he’s named Michael Jackson and Madonna.
Even given all the recent flood destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy, the NYC rat infestation problem remains steep, easily rating as one of the nation’s most notoriously severe.
“They’re going to be like us,” Brooklyn native Bob Sullivan, author of the widely renowned novel ‘Rats,’ matter-of-factly predicted.
“Get washed out, try to come back in.”
But not if Ramon Severino can help it.
Glenn Minnis is a NYC-based sports and culture writer. Follow him on Twitter at @glennnyc.