Worries over rats as city cuts pest control jobs

Oh, rats!

That’s what more residents could be saying — and seeing — after the health department slashes the number of pest control aides by nearly 70 percent as part of the city’s latest round of budget cuts.

The department plans to get rid of 57 out of 84 full-time pest control aide positions, the workers who clean up trash on properties where rodent infestations have been reported.

“It’s going to affect quality of life directly, giving more harbor to rodents, lowering property values,” Fritz Reid, head of the union that represents the workers, told amNewYork. “These people are cleaning up our neighborhoods.”

Pest control aides respond to complaints called into 311 and from community boards about unsanitary conditions, often in vacant or partially vacant buildings, where rodents have been spotted.

The workers notify the landlord of the problem and if it’s not taken care of, they clean up the properties themselves and lay down traps. They also drain standing water to prevent mosquitoes from breeding.

“We are basically the first responders,” said a pest control aide who asked that his name not be used.

Neither the union or the city would provide data on how often the pest control crews are sent out.

Meanwhile, New Yorkers told of the planned cuts Tuesday were already predicting the worst.

“It’ll have a drastic effect,” said Kevin Pajedo, 27, of Flushing. “Even without the cuts, rats are already a problem.”

It’s not clear when the reductions would take effect, but the city projects it will save $1.5 million next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The “proposed cuts focus on the services that would have the least adverse impact,” the health department said in a statement. Officials there said that the agency will instead prioritize clean-ups to deal first with properties most directly impacted by rat infestations.

Nearly all city agencies have been asked to reduce spending by 15 percent for the coming fiscal year as part of an effort to close the city’s $2 billion budget gap. The 57 layoffs represent 35 percent of the health department's staff cuts being made to reach its budget goal.

Union officials also argued that since property owners are fined if workers have to clean up unsanitary conditions, pest control aides raise revenue for the city. In the last fiscal year, the city took in $6.3 million from pest control fees.

“It’s a bad idea,” Manhattan resident Jenny Delgado, 20, said of the layoffs. “Make cuts somewhere else.”

Emily Ngo contributed to this story. 

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