Liquid traps, rat bags, and a brief history of NYC animal politics

Don't eat while reading this.  Photo Credit: Maya Rajamani

amExpress is an opinion column about life in New York, with info on the news, events and people who define the New York experience.

Don't eat while reading this. 
Don’t eat while reading this.  Photo Credit: John Roca

Brooklyn Borough President and mayoral hopeful Eric Adams has gotten caught up in an unlikely controversy: animal rights activists dislike his boosterism for new rat traps that drown the creatures in a mix of liquid, alcohol, and despair.

Yes, it basically ends up being a rat soup. Do yourself a favor and don’t google the pictures.

Adams doubled down in a Daily News op-ed on Wednesday, saying he’s standing up for impoverished neighborhoods overrun by the pests. Examples include a rodent climbing into the crib of a neighbor’s sleeping 5-month-old baby when Adams was growing up. And this horrifying tidbit: “while meeting with NYCHA officials recently, we learned that a plumber had discovered a rat nest in the ceiling of one apartment and ended up hauling away 40 bags of rats.”

It’s just the latest in the proud and bizarre tradition of the animal kingdom getting caught up in New York City politics.

Yes, other places have these: fights over backyard chickens and deer cullings and bears. But in diversity, reaction, counterreaction, and sheer numbers, NYC is hard to beat on this front.

This year, there have been City Hall protests about efforts to ban foie gras (Hudson Valley farms aren’t happy) and the sale of fur (it’s important in African American and Hasidic communities, some people say).

Neither party has a monopoly on the animal issue: remember former GOP mayoral hopeful Joe Lhota refusing to support shutting down the subways to save a kitten? Some might say the issue dogged him. Anthony Weiner, who had other problems, avoided this one: “If there is ever a kitten in peril in the subway line, I will personally go to save the cat,” he told the Daily News in 2013.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, though, may go down in history for his animal adjacencies. His 2013 mayoral win was helped by animal rights activists angry that a main opponent opposed banning horse-drawn carriages in the city. In 2014, he dropped a Staten Island groundhog, who later died but gave birth to the new journalism term “zoo sources” when reporters dug into the fate of the creature.  

Then there was the infamous Harlem deer death of 2016. 

The buck had somehow found its way to Jackie Robinson Park and spent some time there, but it eventually escaped into the city proper. De Blasio had it in for the one-antlered wretch, with police tranquilizing it in the name of safety, but then Gov. Andrew Cuomo got involved and tried to bring the beast north. The feud between the two politicians attained the point of peak comedy. The deer died anyway. Oh the humanity.

Mark Chiusano