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New York City aims to cut rat population with new $32M program

Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City shows off the rat-proof trash bins the city is buying to help reduce the vermin's population by as much as 70 percent by next year. (Credit: Newsday / Matthew Chayes)

Mayor Bill de Blasio is launching a $32 million program to cut the rat population by as much as 70 percent by the end of 2018 in New York City’s worst-infested neighborhoods.

Installing rat-proof garbage bins, shrinking the window when residential garbage can be left for pickup, cementing dirt basements in public housing and raising fines for “rat-related violations” will complement extermination efforts, de Blasio said of the plan, some of which requires city council approval.

The city’s worst neighborhoods for rats, according to the de Blasio administration, are the Grand Concourse area of the Bronx; Chinatown, the East Village and Lower East Side in Manhattan; and Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn. These neighborhoods will serve as a pilot program for ideas that could go citywide if successful. The program will be in place by year’s end, de Blasio hopes. 

“I don’t know any New Yorker who likes rats,” de Blasio said. “I will admit personally to having a certain admiration for Pizza Rat, but that’s the only rat I have ever managed to like.”

Pizza Rat became a viral YouTube sensation in 2015 when the rodent was filmed dragging a pizza slice on a subway staircase.

State Sen. Daniel Squadron, who represents parts of the affected neighborhoods, said one of the top complaints elected officials receive is about rat infestations.

“We rat this rat-duction highly,” he quipped at a news conference, to groans. “It is not an int-rat-cable problem.”

The city plans to buy nearly 350 rat-proof garbage containers, which cost about $7,000 a piece, including a maintenance contract. With a handle and foot pedal, the containers make it nearly impossible for the rodents to get inside. The bins also compact the trash and are powered by the sun.

Under another proposal de Blasio unveiled yesterday to reduce trash in the streets, residential buildings with 10 or more units would be permitted to put out trash beginning at 4 a.m. the day of pickup; the time is currently the afternoon before.

De Blasio spokeswoman Olivia Lapeyrolerie said the 70 percent reduction would be measured by a decrease in “active rat sites,” evidenced by fresh tracks, droppings, burrows and gnawing.

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