New York City’s rat problem seems to be getting worse. The city’s rat complaint hotline is receiving a record number of calls – more than the 24,000 received last year. Some officials call it a “rat crisis.”
One city resident, Nora Prentice, colorfully describes the situation: “It’s like the Burning Man of rats. They’re just sitting there in a lawn chair waiting for you. I don’t know what the city can do about this rat condominium. It’s really gross.”
City Comptroller Scott Stringer has assumed the role of rat czar. As a result of two recent audits, he criticized the city’s health department for its slow response to complaints and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for not cleaning stations properly. He stated that, “I’ve seen rats walking upright, saying, ‘Good morning, Mr. Comptroller.’ It’s unsightly to see rats running through neighborhoods like they actually bought a co-op somewhere.”
While a study conducted by researchers at Columbia University estimated the number of rats in New York City at 2 million, officials and scientists say it’s simply impossible to come up with an accurate estimate.
Officials believe that one reason for the increase in rat complaints is due to the record snowfall last year, which left tons of garbage festering under slow-melting snowbanks.
The city’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, plans to target areas with the largest number of rat complaints. The effort includes using rodent-resistant trash cans, setting traps and working on legislation requiring restaurations to hose away sludge from their sidewalks.
Caroline Bragdon, one of the city’s health department scientists, pointed out that most rats need only a tiny amount of water and food daily to survive. She stated that, “It’s an apple core, it’s a piece of hotdog, a couple of chips. It’s the crumbs. You’d much rather prevent rats from being here than treat them with poison after they’re here.”