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Rats In New York City – Christopher Chierchio


If you live in New York City, you probably already know this: The city has a huge and growing rat problem.

Just how bad is it? According to Open The Books, rat sightings to the city’s 311 line went from 12,617 in 2014 to 17,353 in 2018 — a rise of 38%. Estimates of New York’s total rat population range wildly — anywhere from 250,000 to tens of millions. Rats are more than just inconvenient — they can destroy property, spread disease and even kill residents, which has happened in New York City.

That’s big. And it begs the questions: What’s causing the surge of rats in New York City? A few reasons, as listed bymultiple sources:

  • A construction boom, which has resulted in the disruption of multiple neighborhoods and the destruction of countless buildings. As a result, more rats are out in the open, where they are more visible. It’s important to note that construction hasn’t made it easier for rats to breed or live (in fact, it’s likely killed quite a few rats), but they have made it easier for them to be seen.
  • Climate change has resulted in milder winters. Rats are more likely to live, thrive and breed in warmer weather.
  • A growth in tourism and population, which has led to more trash, thus creating more food for the rat population.

It’s also worth noting that it’s not just New York: Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia and Los Angeles have all experienced similar outbreaks, for similar reasons.

Cities like New York are fighting back in a variety of ways. Places like Seattle are actually training property owners and building managers in how to control and eliminate their rat population, hoping to stop it in a building before it gets into the streets.

New York has dropped major cash into this problem — as in $32 million. This has funded a variety of initiatives, including:

  • More frequent garbage pickups.
  • Rat-resistant steel cans.
  • More public trash compactors.

The changes aren’t enough, with all of the factors noted above combining to make it virtually impossible for the city to eliminate its rat population. New York would need to make multiple changes to its laws, including changing the way garbage is picked up (currently left on the curb, thus creating an “all night buffet” for rats) and requiring that all new developments hire a licensed exterminator.

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