NYC rat complaints up; most reports in Flatbush, Harlem

Pizza rat has company.

Rat complaints to 311 are on the rise, and have been fairly consistently for the last five years.

Citywide, there were 10,534 complaints in 2010. But that number rose to 15,272 last year — a 44.98% increase, according to city statistics. See our interactive map here.

While a Health Department report released Friday shows there are fewer “active rat signs, such as live rats and active burrows” in targeted neighborhoods in Manhattan and the Bronx, the rise in complaints is continuing.

“I think the rodent problem is prolific in the city of New York,” said Council Member Inez Dickens, whose district includes parts of Harlem and Central Park. “You can’t even sit in Central Park — they come out at night, like they’re paying taxes.”

There have been 8,186 complaints for the first half of 2016, a 23.4% increase from the first half of last year, where there were only 6,632 complaints. And rat-related complaints have gone up a whopping 66.3% since the first half of 2010, when there were only 4,923 calls.

A city spokeswoman said the increase in complaints — which saw a dramatic rise in 2014 — coincides with the same year 311 started offering the ability to gripe about rats on their app.

“New Yorkers can now report rat sightings at the touch of their fingertips, and within a few seconds of noticing a problem — and when it’s easier to reach 311 and subsequently more New Yorkers are contacting 311 year after year, we know we’re doing something right,” a 311 spokesman said in an email.

In 2014, about 18% of complaints were made through the mobile app, according to city statistics. That number jumped to 37% in 2015 and is about 46% for the first half of this year.

Certain areas of the city, however, are having a more pronounced increase in rodent complaints than others.

In the zip code 11226, which includes parts of Flatbush and Ditmas Park, there were 162 complaints about rats for the first half of this year, the most in the city. That was up from 69 complaints for the same time period in 2015.

The second most belonged to 10026, which includes parts of Harlem and a northern section of Central Park. There were 151 complaints made for the first half of the year, compared to 85 for the first half of last year.

Flatbush resident Patricia Beaubrun said the rats come out at night, especially concentrated around a few specific blocks, like Caton Avenue.

“I’m not used it it, I’m scared of that,” she said. “I’ll deal with roaches if I have to, but not rats. They have to do something about it because it’s overtaking Brooklyn — they’re big, fat rats.”

Deanna Shepherd, 25, said she often sees garbage piled up on the sidewalk without a can.

“It’s New York City, there’s rats everywhere,” said the Flatbush resident. “You’re kind of used it it, but at the same time it’s still disgusting.”

Several residents in Harlem pointed toward construction projects as a possible reason for the rats.

“You can’t really park here — they chewed on my battery wire, they chewed on my air conditioning wire,” said Harlem resident Sylvia Quiles, 46. “They chewed through all kinds of stuff. We’ve never been afraid of the rats, we knew there always were some in the neighborhood. But now we’re afraid of them.”

Ivan Rodriguez, 56, has lived in Harlem for 23 years and said he sees rats in his neighborhood often.

“I’m cautious,” he said. “Before I leave here, I look down the block, up the block, to make sure that I see anything. The rats are everywhere. They’re never going to be gone. You can’t get rid of them.”

Dickens said she has seen five community gardens in her district destroyed by rodents. But she doesn’t think Harlem necessarily has more rats than other areas, just more people calling 311 about them.

Dickens encouraged people to clean out their recycling as a way to ward off the rodents.

While the Garment District and the Far West Side — zip code 10018 — had fewer complaints, there was a larger increase in them from year to year: there were 23 complaints for the first half of 2016, a 666.7% increase from the same time period in 2015, when there were only three complaints.

“That area, in particular, there’s been a huge amount of new construction and when there is construction, especially significant construction, it stirs up rat reservoirs,” said Council Member Corey Johnson, whose district includes that area. “You end up seeing more rats because their habitat under the city streets is being destroyed.”

Johnson said there are likely far more rats in the area than the complaint number reflects since the area is more commercial than residential, and the bulk of complaints tend to happen where people live and not where they work.

The increase of complaints there was only surpassed by the 866.7% jump in the zip code 11421, which includes Woodhaven and Forest Park, Queens. There were 29 complaints for the first six months of this year, compared to only three last year.

Johnson’s office will be hosting a “Rat Academy” with the Health Department on Aug. 16 to teach people about steps they can take to prevent rats from infesting the neighborhood.

And the Health Department is also trying to fight the pesty problem by focusing on “rat reservoirs,” baiting large concentrations of rats and then closing the burrows.

In the first year of the pilot program, the Health Department focused on three areas of Manhattan — East Harlem, the East Village and Manhattan Valley — and three areas of the Bronx — Grand Concourse, Mt. Hope and Belmont.

A spokesman for the Health Department said the city has invested $2.9 million in fighting rats throughout New York City.