New York City’s rats are a growing problem and it’s getting out of control. As the city returns to normal after the pandemic, 2022 has seen the largest rat infestation in more than a decade, according to reports, and Mayor Eric Adams‘ plans appear to be falling short.
According to an Associated Press (AP) report published in early May, New York residents reported nearly 7,400 rodent sightings so far this year through the dedicated rat control service line, representing a 60% increase over reports from the past two years.
Rats are winning the war against failed programs
AP data indicate that, in the first four months of 2022, the number of sightings was the highest recorded since at least 2010, when the public rodent registry began. During that entire year, 10,500 sightings were reported. Eleven years later, in 2021, that number grew to 25,000.
While Brooklyn Borough President in 2019, now-Mayor Eric Adams proposed a disinfection plan that promised to move quickly on a solution to New York’s rat problem, which has become a hallmark of the city.
Adams’ program involved a complex system of traps that lured rats into dumpsters and, with a series of baits, directed them into a pool of alcohol and vinegar where they quickly drowned. The method is capable of killing up to 40 rats at a time.
“We’re having an impact, we’re catching a lot of rats,” Marino said of it. “But there are millions out there. I don’t want to be alarmist, but there are a lot of them.”
The pandemic, according to the AP, exacerbated the problem. Matt Frye, a New York state pest control specialist, told the media outlet that street sightings “depend on how much food is available” for the rats and where they can find it.
Frye warned AP that while the return to normalcy after the pandemic “is exciting after two years of Covid-imposed lifestyle changes, it also means that rat problems that are directly related to human behavior remain the same.”
New York’s rulers must devise new strategies from time to time. There are many different devises and, depending on the results, all of them are equally insufficient. Former Mayor Bill de Blasio invested tens of millions of dollars in a program that included more frequent trash pickup, more aggressive home inspections and replacing dirt basement floors in some apartment buildings with concrete floors.
Although Mayor Adams was critical of de Blasio’s program, he has had no choice but to continue it. For that reason, City Council Sanitation Committee Chair Sandy Nurse told Gothamist that “a more aggressive rat mitigation strategy is needed, particularly in areas with a lot of complaints, such as public housing areas.”
From the City Council, they are trying to pressure Adams to invest about $22 million to expand garbage collection to twice a day instead of once and an additional $5 million in the trap program.
The mayor is willing to “explore innovative and effective new tools” to more aggressively attack the problem, according to the Gothamist. “New Yorkers deserve cleaner streets and rat mitigation should be part of that,” Adams said.