Rodents on the rise: How NYC is losing the rat battle – Gothamist


Recommended by Dikshit Aryal, Published on June 7th, 2022

As the weather warms, experts fear New York City is on pace for its rattiest summer ever, and solutions to prevent and combat the rodent invasion have been less than forthcoming.

"It's definitely increased. There's mad rats," said Zary Rivas, a 19-year-old Bushwick resident, as she and a friend walked next to a pile of trash bags and greasy pizza boxes on the Lower East Side. "We were just chilling, a couple minutes later like a thousand rats came out just walking around. They're not even scared."

New York Citys efforts to eradicate rats, and its failures to do so, date back centuries. In 1865, the New York Times warned the city was fast gaining an unenviable notoriety for producing more rats than any other city in the Union. Over the years, the methods of fighting back have included guns, birth control, scented trash bags, and terriers.

But while Adams once described Mayor Bill de Blasios rat mitigation plan as a joke, he has largely continued the strategies of his predecessor. Those efforts include laying rat poison in public spaces and stuffing dry ice into rat burrows. The latter method is one of the most promising, but also among the most labor intensive, experts say.

A spokesperson for the citys Health Department blamed the uptick in rat activity on the increased availability of food waste, fueled in part by the rise of outdoor dining. The spokesperson added that the agency was focused on expanding enforcement and education, while urging the citys property owners to play a role in reducing food sources for rats.

But despite Adams' lofty campaign promises, officials and rat mitigation experts said the city isn't doing enough to curb the rat population. For one thing, the Adams administration has scaled back a planned expansion of composting, a key environmental initiative that would also reduce on-street rat buffets.

The Department of Sanitation has abandoned an early pandemic rule requiring large residential buildings to containerize their waste. A similar effort to provide containers to businesses that rely on private carters has also stagnated.

Quantifying New York Citys rat problem has long proven as challenging as fixing it. One statistical analysis landed on 2 million as a high-end estimate for the above-ground rat population. Others have put the figure closer to 250,000.

But Timothy Wong, an exterminator at M&M Pest Control for the last two decades, said hes confident the citys rodent population has ballooned to new levels. He said he had discussions months ago with the Health Department about bringing new technology and training to the citys rat-killing efforts, but hasnt heard back.

Without a significant overhaul to its waste management program, Wong argued, the city was effectively surrendering in its war against rats.

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Rodents on the rise: How NYC is losing the rat battle - Gothamist

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