‘There’s a new sheriff in town’: NYC’s first ‘rat czar’ is Education Department alum Kathleen Corradi

Mayor Eric Adams introduces Rat Czar Kathleen Corradi
Mayor Eric Adams (center) announcing the appointment of Kathleen Corradi (right) as the city’s new ‘rat czar.’ Wednesday, April 12, 2023.
Photo by Adrian Childress

She’s gonna teach New York City’s rats a lesson!

Kathleen Corradi, a city Department of Education veteran, was officially tapped by Mayor Eric Adams Wednesday as the city’s first “rat czar” focused on getting rid of the filthy critters plaguing New York City’s homes, businesses and streets.

Corradi’s official title is director of citywide rodent mitigation; she beat out hundreds of applicants for the newly created position that draws an annual $155,000 salary, according to Mayor Adams, perhaps the city’s most famous rat-hater.

In the role, Corradi will lead the Big Apple’s efforts to eradicate its ballooning rodent population by finding new ways to cut off their food supplies and using technology to locate and exterminate them.

At a news conference in Harlem to unveil the new pick, Adams said the point of the role is to oversee and coordinate the many city agencies charged with battling the scourge of rodents throughout the five boroughs.

“We needed someone that was going to put all the pieces together and all the players together to coordinate this entire symphony of fighters,” Adams said. “We needed a maestro, we needed someone that understood, had the track record, was focussed on it.”

“We are just really happy to say today that we have found our rat czar and she is focussed on improving the quality of life for New Yorkers,” he added. “It is expensive enough to live in the city with our families and children, we don’t need outside tenants like rats in our homes terrorizing us every day.”

Rats are everywhere in New York City — and the city’s new “rat czar” is going to work to get rid of them, according to Mayor Eric Adams.AP Photo/Richard Drew, File

The rat czar will work to break down the barriers that have traditionally existed between the many city agencies involved in the city’s rat mitigation efforts, including the Department of Sanitation (DSNY), Department of Health (DOHMH) and Parks Department. The position will also research new rat fighting strategies.

“We were really playing whack a mole,” the mayor said. “Now this coordinated effort is going to allow us to put everyone as part of the team.”

At the DOE, Corradi led the Zero Waste Schools program and directed “rodent reduction efforts” across 120 public schools, she said, with nearly 70% of them reaching their compliance goals. With her years of experience in rodent mitigation, Corradi said the rat czar job posting that went up last November quickly caught her attention.

“Rats are the symptom of systemic issues, including sanitation, health, housing, and economic justice,” Corradi said. “You can’t just deal with one part of the problem and call it a day. We need system wide solutions, strong leadership and an engaged population to join the efforts. That’s where I come in. As New York City’s first director of rodent mitigation, I will bring a science and systems based approach to reducing New York City’s rat population. With a strong focus on cutting off the food, water and shelter rats need to survive.”

“Pizza Rat may live in infamy, but rats and the conditions that support their thriving will no longer be tolerated in New York City,” she added. “No more dirty curbs, unmanaged spaces, or brazen burrowing. There’s a new sheriff in town. And with your help, we’ll send those rats packing.”

According to Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi, the administration was flooded with 900 applications for the new role within two weeks of posting it online. She said the selection process was “grueling” — involving writing samples and multiple interviews both over video conference and in-person.

“’I’m pleased today that all New Yorkers will get to meet who we chose,” Joshi said at the press conference. “A woman and that should not be a surprise, who can see around corners, has the fortitude and persistence necessary to battle rats, and the character and personality to keep New Yorkers informed and active in the fight against rats.”

Kathleen Corradi (center), the city’s new rat czar.Photo by Adrian Childress

Corradi will work closely with Joshi and Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom, while reporting to Adams’ chief of staff, Camille Joseph Varlack, according to City Hall.

The rat czar said her efforts will focus on targeting and eliminating the three things rats need to survive: food, water and shelter. Cutting off rats’ food supply in particular, she said, by getting food scraps into compost bins and getting litter off the streets, is essential to targeting the city’s vermin.

“Fighting rats starts with fighting litter, garbage and food waste,” she said. “And as anyone who’s seen the movie ‘Ratatouille’ knows, rats love the same foods humans do. That’s why every anti rat initiative starts with making sure food related waste gets into bins that rats can’t.”

Since coming into office, the mayor has already enacted policies and passed bills aimed squarely at eliminating rats. Those include a waste containerization pilot program launched in commercial zones across all five boroughs last year and pushing back trash set out times from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The mayor on Wednesday also announced four city agencies committed $3.5 million in funding from the current fiscal year to establish the “Harlem Rat Mitigation Zone” — a targeted effort committing staffing and equipment specifically for reducing the number of rats across Community Boards, 9, 10 and 11 in Upper Manhattan. He said Corradi will analyze rat mitigation work in Harlem in order to better inform how to handle rats across the city.

“Kathleen is going to get in now and do an analysis on number one, the new products that we’re testing and how she’s going to take over that whole operation of looking at these new products, what are the outcomes? Which was we’re going to have citywide?,” he said. “And she’s going to do an assessment of what she needs to do her job.”