NYC has a big rat problem — and it’s not doing enough

The rats are scampering everywhere in NYC nowadays — and we’re not talking about FBI informants.

Since the start of 2022, the Big Apple has seen its worst infestation since 2010 — the first year that rat sighting records were made public online, the Associated Press reported.

From January to April, New Yorkers called in 7,400 rat sightings to 311, whereas an estimated 6,510 were spotted during the same period in 2021. The recent vermin report is up 60% from the first four months of 2019 as well.

Pat Marino, who leases Mayor Eric Adams’ approved Rat Traps, an innovative, filing cabinet-looking rodent death pool, even admitted to being outnumbered.

“We’re having an impact, we’re catching a lot of rats. But there are millions out there. I don’t want to be an alarmist, but there are a lot,” Marino told Gothamist.

Rats have always been an issue in NYC. But since the pandemic, the problem has scurried out of hand.
AFP via Getty Images

So, what is it about the pandemic that’s had rats scurrying city streets with a vengeance?

A Department of Health spokesperson said that an abundance of food waste — partly caused by an uptick in outdoor dining — has led to the rise of the rats, the outlet reported.

Matt Frye, a Cornell pest management specialist for the state of New York, warned the AP that a return to pre-pandemic habits “also means business as usual for rat problems that are directly tied to human behavior.”

Gothamist also reported that the Department of Sanitation dumped an early pandemic policy that required large-scale residential buildings to keep their waste in containers. A similar practice for businesses with private garbage carting has also been put on hold.

Rats are becoming the bane of New Yorkers existence nowadays.
Rats are becoming the bane of New Yorkers’ existence nowadays.
Christopher Sadowski

Seasoned pest control professionals were quick to say the city’s ongoing rat problem will only worsen as warm weather continues — particularly if the status quo remains.

“You have a building with like 400 residents and they have like 300 trash bags out there for seven or eight hours,” Timothy Wong, who has been an exterminator for 20 years, told Gothamist.

“What do you think is going to happen?” the M&M Pest Control worker added.

And Adams — a critic of former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s rat-repellent strategy — is now following in his predecessor’s ineffective pitter-patter, according to Gothamist.

Continuous pile-ups of garbage are enabling rats to run around NYC.
Continuous pileups of garbage are enabling rats to run around NYC.
AFP via Getty Images

Like de Blasio, Adams, who was gung-ho to eradicate rats on the campaign trail, or should we say tail, is also dropping rat poison in public spaces and committing to putting dry ice into burrows around the boroughs.

The mayor recently unrolled a new rat curbing effort as well. He’s instituted padlocked, curbside trash bins that aim to lessen the mountains of garbage bags that rats often feast on.

“You’re tired of the rodents, you’re tired of the smell, you’re tired of seeing food, waste and spillage,” Adams said during a Times Square press conference.

Eric Adams was passionate about getting rats out of NYC during his mayoral campaign. But things are worse than ever.
Eric Adams was passionate about getting rats out of NYC during his mayoral campaign. But things are worse than ever.
Rashid Umar Abbasi

But the chair of the City Council’s Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management, Sandy Nurse, told Gothamist she wants to see “a more aggressive rat mitigation strategy, particularly in areas with high complaints, like public housing areas.”

The City Council is also gnawing on Adams to inject $22 million into its budget to expand trash basket pickup to twice a day as opposed to once. That’s in addition to another $5 million for rat-catching utilities, according to Gothamist.

Rats have become a severe problem in NYC since Covid. But what can be done to keep them away?
Rats have become a severe problem in NYC since COVID. But what can be done to keep them away?
Rashid Umar Abbasi

In a statement to the outlet, Adams said he’s “open to exploring innovative and effective new tools to keep our streets clean and rat-free.

“New Yorkers deserve cleaner streets and rat mitigation must be a part of that.”

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