Verminated: Mayor pledges $32 million to reduce New York City rat population

ByEyewitness News via WABC logo
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
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Rob Nelson reports on the plan to help reduce the rat population.

CROWN HEIGHTS, Brooklyn (WABC) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced a $32 million multi-agency plan to reduce New York City's rat population that targets the three most infested parts of city.

The initiative -- targeting the Grand Concourse area, Chinatown/East Village/Lower East Side and Bushwick/Bedford-Stuyvesant -- aims to reduce rat activity by up to 70 percent in the targeted zones by minimizing food sources and available habitats.

"All New Yorkers deserve to live in clean and healthy neighborhoods," de Blasio said. "We refuse to accept rats as a normal part of living in New York City. This $32 million investment is a multi-pronged attack to dramatically reduce the rat population in the city's most infested areas and improve the quality of life for residents."

Officials say the pest management approach will build on the success of the city's current rat abatement programs and attack environmental factors conducive to rats, which has been shown to be more effective than poisoning rats alone. The hope is that by dramatically reducing the available habitats and food sources, rat reproduction will diminish and rat colonies will decline.

Initiatives include cementing dirt basements in public housing, purchasing better waste containers, increasing trash pickup and increasing enforcement of rat-related violations. All aspects of this plan will be launched by the end of 2017.

Rats contaminate food, have the potential to spread diseases and can reduce overall quality of life. Additionally, their gnawing and burrowing can damage utilities and erode the structural integrity of buildings.

WATCH: Mayor de Blasio announces new inititive to reduce NYC's rate population:

The de Blasio administration outlined the programs in a press release as follows:

--New waste containers: The city will purchase 336 solar compactors that restrict access to trash with a "mail-box" opening and that have resulted in 90 percent rat reductions when fully deployed in concentrated areas. The city will also replace all the remaining wire waste baskets in the zones with 1,676 steel cans-both in parks and on street corners, which should meaningfully reduce rats' access to food sources compared to current wire baskets. Installation of solar compactors and steels cans will begin by September.

--Rat Pads in NYCHA buildings: The city will allocate $16.3 million in capital spending to replace dirt basement floors with concrete "rat pads" in prioritized NYCHA buildings within the Mitigation Zones. The cementing of basements, complemented by extermination and cleanouts, has been evidenced to reduce resident-generated work orders related to rats at NYCHA facilities by 40 percent. Additionally, $8.8 million in will be invested in new NYCHA trash compactors to properly store waste, often replacing machines more than twenty years old and far past normal useful life. Requests for Proposal will be issued before the end of the year, with installation set to begin in 2018.

--Better trash management in DOHMH-designated areas: The plan proposes a local law that requires buildings containing more than ten units within the Mitigation Zones to curb garbage after 4 a.m. the day of trash collection, greatly reducing the availability of rats' food source. To further minimize rats' food source, local laws will be proposed to require enrollment in organics collection by Food Service Establishments and low-performing buildings in the DOHMH-designated areas. A citywide local law will also be proposed to increase fines for illegal dumping by private business from $1,500 to $5,000 for first time offenses, with fines reaching up to $20,000 for additional violations.

--More frequent trash pickup and anti-rat staff: The plan calls for increased DSNY basket and residential service in the most critical areas within the Mitigation Zones. Similarly, NYC Parks basket pickup will become an everyday occurrence in all parks within the Mitigation Zones, accompanied by targeted litter removal from parks. Increased DSNY and NYC Parks waste basket pick up has already begun, with increased DSNY residential pick up beginning by the end of August. Eight staff will be added to DOHMH's anti-rat team; seven front-line staff and a sophisticated data scientist to allow DOHMH to conduct data-driven rat mitigation efforts. Finally, NYCHA's MyNYCHA mobile app will be modified to ensure tenants can effectively create work orders for trash removal and rat mitigation.

--Ramped-up enforcement of rat-related violations: DOHMH will lead full-building, multi-agency inspections of targeted private buildings alongside DOB, HPD, and DSNY to identify conditions that contribute to rat infestations, order owners to make repairs and issue violations when warranted. DSNY will undertake a three-month enforcement blitz against illegal dumping at major NYCHA facilities to pilot tactics that can reduce rat food sources and habitat. In addition, DSNY will focus outreach and enforcement to promote waste management best practices, including separating organic waste.

--New laws to require better trash management: We will work with City Council to introduce new laws to improve trash management and reduce food for rats in these mitigation zones. These laws will require buildings with 10+ units to put out trash at 4 a.m. in DOHMH set areas, call for low-performing buildings to enroll in organics collection, instruct Food Service Establishments to enroll in organics in areas set by DOHMH, and increase fines for improper waste disposal and illegal dumping.