New York City declares war on rats with $32 million plan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City on Wednesday announced a $32 million plan to reduce the rat population by 70 percent in the city’s three most infested neighborhoods by the end of 2018.

FILE PHOTO - A rat's head rests as it is constricted in an opening in the bottom of a garbage can in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., October 18, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

The three targeted neighborhoods are in Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn.

Rats are seen as a public health threat as carriers of disease, and as a plague on the quality of life.

Since the beginning of 2017, the New York City Health Department has received more than 10,000 complaints of rat sightings, and more than 15 percent of the more than 24,000 properties inspected in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx showed “Active Rat Signs,” the mayor’s office said.

“We refuse to accept rats as a normal part of living in New York City,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.

The plan will begin to roll out in September, and multiple city agencies, including the Sanitation, Parks and Health departments, will be involved.

Most of the money will be spent on improvements in public housing apartment buildings, replacing dirt basement floors with concrete “rat pads” and installing solar trash compactors with a “mail-box” opening to replace the 20-year-old compactors now in use.

Wire waste baskets on city streets will be replaced with new steel ones. Both the new trash compactors and new trash baskets will dramatically diminish rats’ access to food sources.

“The best way to eliminate rats is to deprive them of food, including garbage in homes and litter on New York City streets,” Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia said in the statement.

The city had cut its budget for rodent control programs by $1.5 million in 2010 to help reduce its overall deficit, but four years later, with estimates of 2 million rats sharing space with the city’s population of 8 million, the Health Department started a $3.5 million program targeting rat colonies.

Reporting by Riham Alkousaa; Editing by Leslie Adler