The first time I wrote about NYC rats was three years ago when I addressed some fascinating background about their growth – literally and figuratively – in tandem with Mayor De Blasio’s $2.9 million rat control program. He joined other recent mayors including Koch, Giuliani and Bloomberg in the fight against rats. My POV on the program then was rats may have lost some battles, but were still winning the war.
“There have been 109 mayors of New York and, it seems, nearly as many mayoral plans to snuff out the scourge. Their collective record is approximately 0-108,” said an article in The New York Times when Mayor de Blasio announced the 2016 rat attack plan.
The record is now not 1-108. In fact, according to a headline in The New York Times last week, “Rats are taking over New York City.”
The New York Times article cited a watchdog group (OpenTheBooks.com) that reports rat sightings have increased 38% since 2014, with sightings by health inspectors doubling in the same time period.
The reasons are manifold. The gentrification of neighborhoods is exposing and eliminating burrows, forcing rats out in the open. Milder winters are making it easier for the rats to survive and thrive. And then there’s our trash, bagged and set out overnight for pick-up that becomes a midnight feast for rats. The more our population grows and the more tourists who visit, the more trash and the more rats.
In 2017, the De Blasio administration announced a new $32 million neighborhood rat reduction plan. But after a year of reductions in the rat population, sightings are on the rise again.
What’s the solution? Perhaps there is none as every effort to eradicate them has failed. Increased litter basket pickups. Solar-powered, trash compacting bins. More rat-resistant steel cans. Dry ice to smother rats in their burrows. This being NYC, there are even rat-killing vigilantes.
And forget cats. While cats can be effective in keeping down rodent populations, a study showed that NYC rats are so large, fat and sneaky that feral cats are no match for them.
If there is an upside, it’s a fascinating one. As NYC brown rats are legion and mean, they keep other species of rats from invading their territory thus reducing the risks of new species bringing new diseases.
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Steven J. Schleider, MAI, LEED-AP BD+C
President, Metropolitan Valuation Services