A visit to New York City just wouldn’t be complete without a good, old-fashioned rat-spotting session from the safety of a busy, bacteria-laden subway platform. For straphangers with dead phones and a lack of reading material, observing a filthy, oversized rat scurry about the tracks in search of food — a slice of plain, perhaps? — is a totally acceptable way to pass the time before the next train arrives. (Double authenticity points if you’re watching said rat scurry about inside a packed subway car).
This rite of passage and time-killing tradition may soon be coming to an end, however.
Last week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, no friend of large rodents, announced that a $3 million chunk of the city's annual budget will be used to track and eradicate the city’s signature vermin, which, by the way do not outnumber humans as popularly believed. While $3 million may seem like a lot of cash to dedicate to an anti-rat crusade, it’s a small price to pay to put an end to a nightmare that’s been going on for hundreds of years.
The funds will be used to expand a $400,000 pilot program unrolled last year in seven particularly rat-plagued neighborhoods including the East Village, East Harlem, the Upper West Side and the Grand Concourse section of the Bronx. As reported by the Daily News, the city’s stable of rat-catching mercenaries will expand from nine to 50 and include a trio of dedicated “rat biologists.”
At this point, it’s unclear what additional neighborhoods across the five boroughs will be included in the first wave of the expanded program. City officials, however, are reportedly in the process of finalizing a shortlist.
The Daily News notes that the pilot neighborhoods have experienced a dramatic drop — roughly 80 to 90 percent — in reported rat sightings/complaints.
The aggressive and now-permanent scheme, different from the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s sterilization initiative announced in 2013 that specifically targets the city’s subterranean mamma rats, will involve identifying active rat hotspots or “reservoirs” such as sewers and parks.
Much of this rat-stalking activity will be carried out at dusk —“rush hour for rodents” as the Daily New so eloquently puts it. “They’re not particularly bothered by people watching them,” Daniel Kass, the city’s deputy commissioner for environmental health, explains. “What we’ve seen is, there are neighborhoods where no matter what building owners do, there is a ready supply of rats that live in parks, medians, or sewers that are there to replace them.”
Once the rats have been tracked back to their reservoirs by the city’s beefed-up rat patrol, the target areas will be baited with either traps or poison. The latter method has been met with controversy in the past.
And, no, however skilled they are at sniffing out and eradicating disease-carrying vermin, canine commandos will not be contracted by the city as part of the program. Community outreach campaigns geared to better educate the public on how they can help to curb localized rat populations will, however, complement the assessing/tracking/baiting work carried out by city exterminators.
Care to share your NYC rat horror stories to help mark this joyous (?) occasion?
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