Out of roughly 900 applicants, Kathy Corradi is the winner of New York’s most literal rat race. Mayor Eric Adams announced the former elementary school teacher as the inaugural citywide director of rodent mitigation last Wednesday, April 12. In other words, the city just found its rat czar—and her work begins in Harlem.

“Kathy has the knowledge, drive, experience, and energy to send rats packing and create a cleaner, more welcoming city for all New Yorkers,” said Adams. “Beginning with this $3.5 million investment toward rodent mitigation in Harlem, Kathy will take the lead on our multi-agency effort to test new mitigation techniques, expand outreach and education efforts, and increase maintenance and remediation work. The rats are going to hate Kathy, but we’re excited to have her leading this important effort.”

Her work uptown encompasses Manhattan Community Boards 9, 10, and 11. A 33-person team—including 19 full-time staff—will check and maintain public spaces, terminating any pests they encounter. Private properties can expect biannual inspections. 

REALTED: Mayor Adams gets split decision in battle against rats

In an email statement, the new rat czar discussed the Amsterdam News the importance of addressing the city’s rat problem for Black and brown neighborhoods like Harlem. 

“Rats are more than a quality-of-life issue for New Yorkers; they are a symptom of systemic issues, like sanitation, health, housing, and economic justice that too often disproportionately impact Black and Brown communities,” said Corradi. “Every New Yorker, regardless of where they live, should be able to live without rats in their homes or impacting their neighborhoods. I’m thrilled to begin this work with a $3.5 million investment to fight rats in Harlem and am committed to ensuring no community is left out of our war on rats.”

Last year, rodent experts told the Amsterdam News that rats are a broader indicator of local divestment. An uptick in the critters’ populations often tracks with rising rent stress. 

The mitigation zone covers 28 NYCHA buildings—earlier this year, repair tickets released by the tenant organization United Front Against Displacement showed residents complained extensively about rat sightings in Harlem public housing units. The westside’s Douglas Houses and the eastside’s Johnson Houses are receiving eight new “rat slabs,” which fill flooring to prevent rat burrows.

The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has also designated three other zones, including one in Brooklyn.

“Rat Mitigation Zones have been part of the city’s strategy to combat rats since 2017, including the neighborhood of Bed-Stuy,” said a Health Department spokesperson. “These Mitigation Zones have recently expanded to include Harlem. Residents in these zones, including Black and Latino New Yorkers, will get proactive and enhanced attention from the city as it relates to rat-related issues. This will help all New Yorkers experience better conditions in their neighborhoods.”

In addition to teaching in Central Brooklyn, Corradi boasts experience in leading programs at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and developing New York City’s Zero Waste Schools program for the Department of Education’s Office of Sustainability. The position’s listing drew significant attention and interest due to the announced salary range of $120,000 to $170,000. 

In other rodent-fighting news, the Department of Sanitation kicked off this month by curbing—pun intended—the time window for when trash can be left out. New Yorkers must wait until 6 p.m. to dump garbage in a safe container and until 8 p.m. to set these “rat buffets” curbside. 

“Piles of black trash bags have been robbing us of clean and usable public space for more than 50 years,” said Sanitation Commissioner Jessica Tisch on April 1. “Seeing the bags for a few hours a day instead of more than half the day will make a huge, huge difference in our streetscape — and it will cut off the all-you-can-eat rat buffet and send rats packing.”
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 of any amount today by visiting https://bit.ly/amnews1.

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