Bad news for Remy and Master Splinter—city council members Sandy Nurse, Chi Ossé and Shaun Abreu just introduced their “Rat Action Plan” last Thursday.
Announced at City Hall Park, the legislative package boasts a quintet of bill introductions aimed at reducing the population of roughly 2 million rats in the city.
“Intros 414 and 459, which our council members [Chi] Ossé, Shaun Abreu and I introduced, will require the city to establish rat mitigation,” said Nurse, who chairs the Sanitation Committee. “Based on this formative data that we have, you can see where the rat sightings are—we can see where the rat population is strongest, that is Brooklyn, that is Upper Manhattan, and that’s in the Bronx.”
Additionally, Intro 460 would require rodent-proof receptacles for buildings with infestation problems. Intro 544 would increase penalties for failing to store waste properly, scaled for repeat offenders. And Intro 442, which councilmember Erik Bottcher also worked on, would require rat mitigation plans from building alteration permit applicants located in the aforementioned rat mitigation zones.
“There are so many apartment complexes in New York City that throw their trash out on days that aren’t trash days, that don’t give a damn about how they’re throwing their trash away,” said Ossé. “And when we see these mountains of trash, we see large populations of rats warming to these mountains of trash.”
Ossé, who represents Bedford-Stuyvesant and North Crown Heights, mentioned frequent reports of the critters from communities of color the trio of city council members serve. He even recalled an instance when one bit a constituent. According to Robert Sullivan, author of “Rats: Observations on the History & Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants,” these outbreaks are indicative of broader social issues.
“The presence of rats is an indicator for disinvestment in cities and communities,” he said. “If you look at where rat sightings are in the city and if you overlay that with neighborhoods that have suffered a severe rent increase in the past year, you see that neighborhoods that have high rent stress, are also the neighborhoods where there are high incidence of rat reports.”
Additionally, rat numbers grow when city services are cut or during sweeping lifestyle changes that come with major events like the COVID-19 pandemic. Sullivan recommends reducing late night curbing as rats, like other New York residents, love an early morning breakfast.
Additionally, he advises getting rid of plastic bags, which he calls “bird feeders for rats.” But he’s a fan of the “Rat Action Plan,” which he calls an organic approach.
“Cutting city services and investing in fancy data or fancy new technologies, or mint-flavored, rat resistant trash bags, that doesn’t work,” said Sullivan. “What works is investing in communities [and] in their buildings, and making certain that property owners who rent [out] take care of the properties, and also in hiring people to help people live in neighborhoods.”
But not everyone is seemingly a proponent. A “rat lobby” jokingly showed up to the announcement holding signs saying “your rat plan=our rat pain” and “don’t step on me.” They may or may not actually be members of councilwoman Nurse’s office wearing Halloween rat masks. One “protester,” who identified himself as “Rick Rodent,” claimed to be the five borough (or is it burrow?) infestation coordinator for the “Rodent Alliance for Tasty Scraps.”
“Ever since this new city council took office in January, led by council member Nurse of the sanitation committee, they’ve been implementing all sorts of anti-rat policies,” said “Mr. Rodent,” in character. “They fought to restore funding to the department of sanitation for more basket pickup service, which is taking valuable and easily accessible food away from our rodent New Yorkers.”
Tandy Lau is a Report for America corps member and writes about public safety for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep him writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w