New York City Mayor De Blasio declares war on rats

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced a $32 million, multi-agency plan to reduce the city’s rat population that targets the three most infested parts of city: the Grand Concourse area, Chinatown/East Village/Lower East Side and Bushwick/Bedford-Stuyvesant. This interagency initiative aims to reduce rat activity by up to 70 percent in the targeted zones by minimizing food sources and available habitats.

Each garbage can will cost an approximate $7,000.00  This news comes just weeks after Councilman Greenfield blasted Mayor de Blasio for a 2 million dollar cost for a bathroom on 18th Ave 55 St park.

This integrated pest management approach will build on the success of the City’s current rat abatement programs and attack environmental factors conducive to rats, which is more effective than poisoning rats alone. By dramatically reducing the available habitats and food sources in targeted areas, rat reproduction will diminish and rat colonies will decline. The City will achieve this by cementing dirt basements in NYCHA, purchasing better waste containers, increasing trash pickup and increasing enforcement of rat-related violations in these areas. All aspects of this plan will be launched by the end of 2017.

“All New Yorkers deserve to live in clean and healthy neighborhoods,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “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.”

“The Department of Sanitation is proud to join with our sister agencies to step up the fight against rats in New York City,” said Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia. “The best way to eliminate rats is to deprive them of food, including garbage in homes and litter on New York City streets. Increasing service and adding rodent resistant litter baskets will achieve this goal. I am excited to bring these and other approaches to the fight against rats in these targeted zones to significantly reduce the rat population. This plan promotes a healthier, safer and cleaner New York for all.”

“We are very excited to be part of this collaborative effort that builds upon the success of our rat reservoir program and strengthens the City’s capacity to prevent rat activity,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett “Our rat reservoir program has proven to be a valuable tool in reducing rat activity in some of the City’s most infested neighborhoods. As we get ready to graduate eleven rat reservoirs around the five boroughs, we are grateful for this new influx of resources and personnel to continue our work.”


Rats contaminate food, have the potential to spread diseases and can reduce overall quality of life. Their gnawing and burrowing can damage utilities and erode the structural integrity of buildings. To reduce the rat population, the de Blasio Administration will implement the following new programs in the three mitigation zones:

  • 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% 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%.  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 4am 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 AM 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.

This plan builds on the Administration’s previous efforts to manage rodent populations. In 2014, the Health Department piloted the Rat Reservoir program in six sites with high concentration of rats in Manhattan and the Bronx. The Rat Reservoir program targets rat colonies and conditions conducive to rats in sidewalks, catch basins, tree pits, and parks, in addition to buildings. In the first year of the pilot program, the Department’s efforts in the areas resulted in an 80 to 90 percent drop in active rat signs.

In 2015, Mayor de Blasio increased funding by $2.9 million to expand the City’s Rat Reservoir Program. The investment expanded the pilot program from the original six sites to 45 areas around the city.  Prior to this investment, the City conducted pest control work with nine staff for a cost of $611,000 in six neighborhoods. The rat reservoir initiative significantly expanded the program to 50 staff and this new investment will bring that team up to 58.

“While New York City has made important strides to curb the rodent population, it’s clear more needs to be done to significantly and permanently reduce the scourge of rats across the five boroughs,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “That’s why I’m proud to support this new initiative that will allow the City to further reduce the rat population by better targeting the City’s most infested neighborhoods and minimizing food sources and nesting areas. This comprehensive new plan builds on existing rat abatement efforts and will tackle this quality of life issue and I thank Mayor de Blasio for his commitment to this pressing issue and for working with the City Council on real solutions to mitigate the rat population in NYC.”

“There’s a surprising amount of expertise within city government on how to effectively reduce rat populations,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “The real challenge is coordinating our many agencies with each other and with neighborhood residents around a single strategy. I’m pleased the Administration is pursuing this initiative and have high hopes.”

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said, “I thank the de Blasio Administration for investing millions of dollars into common-sense measures to combat rat populations in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick. It is particularly good to see the commitment to pest mitigation being made to ten NYCHA developments in these neighborhoods, which will improve the quality of life for more than 20,000 residents. This coordinated approach to rat abatement will hopefully have a lasting impact that makes Brooklyn a more livable borough for all.”

“The soaring rat population has been one of the most pernicious and intractable problems facing New Yorkers,” said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney. “Rats are dirty, disgusting and carry diseases. I am thrilled that the City and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene have devised a concerted plan to address the rat population in the neighborhoods where the problem has been greatest. I only hope that once they have success in these communities, the program spreads throughout the city.”

“Pests and rodents are a quality of life and public health concern across neighborhoods. It’s great news that relief is on the way to Chinatown, the Lower East Side, and the East Village,” said State Senator Daniel Squadron. “I look forward to continuing to work with the City to mitigate impacts across the district. Thank you to the City, DSNY, DOHMH, NYCHA, and my colleagues.”

State Senator Brad Hoylman said, “Ask any New Yorker about public health issues facing our city and you’ll likely hear a lot about rats. Mayor de Blasio’s efforts to reduce rat activity by going after their habitats, including here in my district, is an effective strategy to improve public health and make tangible improvements in our city’s quality of life writ large.”


Sanitation and Solid Waste Management Committee said, “I want to thank Mayor de Blasio for his attention to this important issue. Improving quality-of-life in and around public housing in my district is a big priority for me, and this is going to make a big impact.  Also, encouraging residents and businesses to participate in the organics collection program will keep our streets cleaner and help further our goal of reducing waste that goes to landfills.”


“This plan will stop rats at the source and will bring the added benefit of increased participation in NYC’s organics collection program, helping us reach our zero waste goals and create a cleaner, greener NYC, ” said Council Member Brad Lander.  “I commend Mayor de Blasio, Commissioner Garcia and Commissioner Bassett for working together to make these critical investments to improve the quality of life in NYC’s most rat-infested neighborhoods.”


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