New York Post
APPLE’S YEAR OF THE RAT
Pizza Rat is just the tip of the rodent iceberg.
The city’s 311 complaint hot line is on pace for a record year of rat calls, exceeding the more than 24,000 received over each of the last two years.
The spike in reports of rat sightings and conditions attracting rodents is probably because garbage was left on sidewalks during last winter’s heavy snowfalls and because registering complaints is now easier with the city’s 311 app, said Caroline Bragdon, a rat expert at the city Health Department.
Bragdon’s team responds to such complaints, compiles a citywide “rat index” and inspects dozens of buildings each month.
What started as a team of less than a dozen has expanded to nearly 50 people, working with a nearly $3 million annual budget to control rodents.
Upper West Sider Nora Prentice estimates her local park has about 200 rats — but none as charming as Pizza Rat, the plucky rodent seen dragging a large slice down a subway stairwell in a viral YouTube video.
“It’s like the Burning Man of rats,” she said. “They’re just sitting there in a lawn chair waiting for you. I don’t know what the city can do about this rat condominium. It’s really gross.”
She said complaints she filed were closed after officials told her they were “working on the problem.”
“What kind of an answer is this?” she said.
In audits over the past two years, Comptroller Scott Stringer has blasted the Health Department for not responding quickly enough to rat complaints, and the MTA for not cleaning stations more regularly.
“I’ve seen rats walking upright, saying, ‘Good morning, Mr. Comptroller,’ ” he griped. “It’s unsightly to see rats running through neighborhoods like they actually bought a coop somewhere.”
Mayor de Blasio’s “rat reservoir” plan aims to dismantle habitats. It includes setting traps, installing rodentresistant trash cans and working on legislation to require eateries to hose away sludge from garbage.
Every bit helps, Bragdon said. Unlike Pizza Rat, most rats need only an ounce of food and water a day.
“It’s an apple core, it’s a piece of a hot dog, a couple of chips. It’s the crumbs,” she said. “You’d much rather prevent rats from being here than treat them with poison after they’re here.”