New Yorkers are complaining more than usual about rats, even as Pizza Rat and other local rodents become YouTube stars.
Reports to the city’s complaint hotline are “on pace for a record year of rat calls,” The Associated Press reported over the weekend. The number of calls have exceeded "the more than 24,000 over each of the last two years."
One woman even tells the AP that she’s been complaining about a colony of about 200 rats in her neighborhood park, saying, “It’s like the Burning Man of rats.”
Some local officials have complained about the city’s efforts to tamp down on the rat population. City Comptroller Scott Stringer has been issuing critical reports on both the Health Department’s response as well as efforts in the subway system.
The city’s rat experts argue that an increase in the number of complaints doesn’t necessarily mean there are more of the vermin out there. But the spike could be related to the amount of garbage left out during last winter’s record-breaking snowfall, Caroline Bragdon of the city’s Health Department and resident rat expert, told the AP.
Bragdon leads a team of rat experts that identifies rat “reservoirs,” where the rodents congregate and breed exponentially, for extermination. Mayor Bill de Blasio expanded a pilot program targeting rat reservoirs by adding $3 million to the annual budget.
Targeting rat reservoirs includes creating a citywide “rat index,” inspecting buildings, depriving food sources, trapping and poisoning rats.