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De Blasio Administration Announces $32 Million Neighborhood Rat Reduction Plan

July 12, 2017

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced a $32 million, multi-agency plan to reduce the city’s rat population that targets the three most infested parts of city: the Grand Concourse area, Chinatown/East Village/Lower East Side and Bushwick/Bedford-Stuyvesant. This interagency initiative aims to reduce rat activity by up to 70 percent in the targeted zones by minimizing food sources and available habitats. 

This integrated pest management approach will build on the success of the City’s current rat abatement programs and attack environmental factors conducive to rats, which is more effective than poisoning rats alone. By dramatically reducing the available habitats and food sources in targeted areas, rat reproduction will diminish and rat colonies will decline. The City will achieve this by cementing dirt basements in NYCHA, purchasing better waste containers, increasing trash pickup and increasing enforcement of rat-related violations in these areas. All aspects of this plan will be launched by the end of 2017.

“All New Yorkers deserve to live in clean and healthy neighborhoods,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We refuse to accept rats as a normal part of living in New York City. This $32 million investment is a multi-pronged attack to dramatically reduce the rat population in the City’s most infested areas and improve the quality of life for residents.”

“The Department of Sanitation is proud to join with our sister agencies to step up the fight against rats in New York City,” said Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia. “The best way to eliminate rats is to deprive them of food, including garbage in homes and litter on New York City streets. Increasing service and adding rodent resistant litter baskets will achieve this goal. I am excited to bring these and other approaches to the fight against rats in these targeted zones to significantly reduce the rat population. This plan promotes a healthier, safer and cleaner New York for all.”

“We are very excited to be part of this collaborative effort that builds upon the success of our rat reservoir program and strengthens the City’s capacity to prevent rat activity,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett.  “Our rat reservoir program has proven to be a valuable tool in reducing rat activity in some of the City’s most infested neighborhoods. As we get ready to graduate eleven rat reservoirs around the five boroughs, we are grateful for this new influx of resources and personnel to continue our work.” 

“Protecting the health and safety of NYCHA residents is critical. Through this interagency initiative, we are improving the conditions of communities and investing in our residents’ quality of life,” said NYCHA Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye. “With Mayor de Blasio’s partnership, we’re taking an important step forward to provide safe, clean and connected communities for the 1 in 14 New Yorkers who call NYCHA home.”

“Keeping parks safe and beautiful means keeping them clean – and that means keeping rats at bay. New funding for state-of-the-art waste containers, improved steel baskets, and more frequent trash collection represents a major enhancement in Parks’ efforts against rats,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP.

“HPD is proud to join this multi-agency task force created to protect New Yorkers from the health and safety issues presented when rats are present in large numbers in and around multifamily buildings. We look forward to lending our services to perform these very important inspections for the safety of all New York City residents,” said New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Maria Torres-Springer.

 “We look forward to working with our partner agencies to help address rat infestations and improve the quality of life of all New Yorkers,” said Buildings Commissioner Rick D. Chandler, PE.

Rats contaminate food, have the potential to spread diseases and can reduce overall quality of life. Their gnawing and burrowing can damage utilities and erode the structural integrity of buildings. To reduce the rat population, the de Blasio Administration will implement the following new programs in the three mitigation zones:

  • New waste containers: The City will purchase 336 solar compactors that restrict access to trash with a “mail-box” opening and that have resulted in 90% rat reductions when fully deployed in concentrated areas.  The City will also replace all the remaining wire waste baskets in the zones with 1,676 steel cans—both in parks and on street corners—which should meaningfully reduce rats’ access to food sources compared to current wire baskets. Installation of solar compactors and steels cans will begin by September.
  • Rat Pads in NYCHA buildings:  The City will allocate $16.3 million in capital spending to replace dirt basement floors with concrete “rat pads” in prioritized NYCHA buildings within the Mitigation Zones.  The cementing of basements, complemented by extermination and cleanouts, has been evidenced to reduce resident-generated work orders related to rats at NYCHA facilities by 40%.  Additionally, $8.8 million in will be invested in new NYCHA trash compactors to properly store waste, often replacing machines more than twenty years old and far past normal useful life.  Requests for Proposal will be issued before the end of the year, with installation set to begin in 2018.
  • Better trash management in DOHMH-designated areas:  The plan proposes a local law that requires buildings containing more than ten units within the Mitigation Zones to curb garbage after 4am the day of trash collection, greatly reducing the availability of rats’ food source.  To further minimize rats’ food source, local laws will be proposed to require enrollment in organics collection by Food Service Establishments and low-performing buildings in the DOHMH-designated areas. A citywide local law will also be proposed to increase fines for illegal dumping by private business from $1,500 to $5,000 for first time offenses, with fines reaching up to $20,000 for additional violations.
  • More frequent trash pickup and anti-rat staff:  The plan calls for increased DSNY basket and residential service in the most critical areas within the Mitigation Zones. Similarly, NYC Parks basket pickup will become an everyday occurrence in all parks within the Mitigation Zones, accompanied by targeted litter removal from parks. Increased DSNY and NYC Parks waste basket pick up has already begun, with increased DSNY residential pick up beginning by the end of August. Eight staff will be added to DOHMH’s anti-rat team; seven front-line staff and a sophisticated data scientist to allow DOHMH to conduct data-driven rat mitigation efforts. Finally, NYCHA’s MyNYCHA mobile app will be modified to ensure tenants can effectively create work orders for trash removal and rat mitigation.
  • Ramped-up enforcement of rat-related violations:  DOHMH will lead full-building, multi-agency inspections of targeted private buildings alongside DOB, HPD, and DSNY to identify conditions that contribute to rat infestations, order owners to make repairs and issue violations when warranted. DSNY will undertake a three-month enforcement blitz against illegal dumping at major NYCHA facilities to pilot tactics that can reduce rat food sources and habitat. In addition, DSNY will focus outreach and enforcement to promote waste management best practices, including separating organic waste.
  • New laws to require better trash management: We will work with City Council to introduce new laws to improve trash management and reduce food for rats in these mitigation zones. These laws will require buildings with 10+ units to put out trash at 4 AM in DOHMH set areas, call for low-performing buildings to enroll in organics collection, instruct Food Service Establishments to enroll in organics in areas set by DOHMH, and increase fines for improper waste disposal and illegal dumping.

This plan builds on the Administration’s previous efforts to manage rodent populations. In 2014, the Health Department piloted the Rat Reservoir program in six sites with high concentration of rats in Manhattan and the Bronx. The Rat Reservoir program targets rat colonies and conditions conducive to rats in sidewalks, catch basins, tree pits, and parks, in addition to buildings. In the first year of the pilot program, the Department’s efforts in the areas resulted in an 80 to 90 percent drop in active rat signs.

In 2015, Mayor de Blasio increased funding by $2.9 million to expand the City’s Rat Reservoir Program. The investment expanded the pilot program from the original six sites to 45 areas around the city.  Prior to this investment, the City conducted pest control work with nine staff for a cost of $611,000 in six neighborhoods. The rat reservoir initiative significantly expanded the program to 50 staff and this new investment will bring that team up to 58.

“While New York City has made important strides to curb the rodent population, it’s clear more needs to be done to significantly and permanently reduce the scourge of rats across the five boroughs,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “That’s why I’m proud to support this new initiative that will allow the City to further reduce the rat population by better targeting the City’s most infested neighborhoods and minimizing food sources and nesting areas. This comprehensive new plan builds on existing rat abatement efforts and will tackle this quality of life issue and I thank Mayor de Blasio for his commitment to this pressing issue and for working with the City Council on real solutions to mitigate the rat population in NYC.”

“A rodent-free community is a healthier and safer place to live, work and play. This much-needed investment will help decrease rodent infestation in parts of my borough that have been affected the most by rodents and the health impact they can have on a community. I commend Mayor de Blasio for providing much-needed funding and organizing a multi-agency response to this public health menace,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

“There’s a surprising amount of expertise within city government on how to effectively reduce rat populations,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “The real challenge is coordinating our many agencies with each other and with neighborhood residents around a single strategy. I’m pleased the Administration is pursuing this initiative and have high hopes.”

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said, “I thank the de Blasio Administration for investing millions of dollars into common-sense measures to combat rat populations in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick. It is particularly good to see the commitment to pest mitigation being made to ten NYCHA developments in these neighborhoods, which will improve the quality of life for more than 20,000 residents. This coordinated approach to rat abatement will hopefully have a lasting impact that makes Brooklyn a more livable borough for all.”

“The rat epidemic continues to be a problem in New York City. Using techniques that have proven to be effective, this effort will help significantly reduce their number of rats in some of the areas that are most affected by this problem. I applaud Mayor de Blasio for prioritizing and investing in the City’s cleanliness and public health,” said Congressman Jose Serrano.

“The soaring rat population has been one of the most pernicious and intractable problems facing New Yorkers,” said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney. “Rats are dirty, disgusting and carry diseases. I am thrilled that the City and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene have devised a concerted plan to address the rat population in the neighborhoods where the problem has been greatest. I only hope that once they have success in these communities, the program spreads throughout the city.” 

“As the Ranking Member of Senate Health Committee and as a Bronx elected representative, I am elated that our City’s administration is putting in place a comprehensive plan of action to properly reduce the rat population in three of the most infested areas in our City. Particularly along the Grand Concourse, which is the heart of my district,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. “This multi-agency effort will implement adequate measures that will not only provide New Yorkers with basic health standards, but in doing so, will also improve the quality of life in these neighborhoods. I’m committed to continue working with city agencies, community partners and constituents to ensure that every Bronx resident lives in a healthy and safe environment that is rodent free.”

“Pests and rodents are a quality of life and public health concern across neighborhoods. It’s great news that relief is on the way to Chinatown, the Lower East Side, and the East Village,” said State Senator Daniel Squadron. “I look forward to continuing to work with the City to mitigate impacts across the district. Thank you to the City, DSNY, DOHMH, NYCHA, and my colleagues.”

State Senator Brad Hoylman said, “Ask any New Yorker about public health issues facing our city and you’ll likely hear a lot about rats. Mayor de Blasio’s efforts to reduce rat activity by going after their habitats, including here in my district, is an effective strategy to improve public health and make tangible improvements in our city’s quality of life writ large.”

State Senator Ruben Diaz said, “All of our families deserve to live in safe and sanitary conditions. Why should children walking past a pile of garbage have to run across the street because there are rats there bigger than their baby sisters? While the Mayor's goal of 70 percent may seem ambitious, this is the greatest city in the world, and I don’t believe any remaining 30 percent of rats would be acceptable. We need as much help as possible to eradicate the rat infestation problems that plague our community and cause illness and disease.”

Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried, Chair of the Assembly Health Committee said, “Rats are a threat to public health and ruin the quality of life of our neighborhoods. The de Blasio administration is right to embrace an intensive approach to reducing New York City’s rat population by targeting some of our most infested communities, a comprehensive strategy that should be replicated throughout the five boroughs once it’s proven effective.”

“Rodents continue to be a concern throughout my district, from parks to NYCHA developments, and it is critical that we focus on reducing their presence in our neighborhoods,” said Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou. “The health hazards presented by rats are alarming, such as their ability to spread diseases, and we must use every tool possible to safeguard the wellbeing of our communities. I commend the City for tackling the rodent problem in a multi-agency manner, and I look forward to working with community partners to control the rat population.”

“Threats to public health come in all sizes and the rats and other vermin that are infesting the lower Grand Concourse community are having a significant impact on the quality of life of residents in the area,” Assembly Member Latoya Joyner said. “Enhanced trash clean-up and the use of modern trash receptacles will not only reduce the dangerous rat population – it will have a positive impact on the visual appearance of the entire community. Mayor de Blasio’s commitment to reducing the presence of these vermin is truly appreciated.” 

“All too often, tenants are subjected to living conditions which are unfit and unsanitary,” said Assembly Member Victor Pichardo. “Rat infestations can spread disease and pose a serious health risk to our families and neighbors. The funding secured by Mayor de Blasio will make critical improvements to rat abatement and ensure a cleaner, more suitable living environment for tenants across the city.”

Council Member Antonio Reynoso, Chair of Sanitation and Solid Waste Management Committee said,I want to thank Mayor de Blasio for his attention to this important issue. Improving quality-of-life in and around public housing in my district is a big priority for me, and this is going to make a big impact.  Also, encouraging residents and businesses to participate in the organics collection program will keep our streets cleaner and help further our goal of reducing waste that goes to landfills.”

“The Mayor’s $32 million investment and innovative new methods at rat reduction prove the demand for a multi-pronged approach to attack our City’s rat problem at the source,” said Council Member Margaret S. Chin. “Since the floodwaters from Superstorm Sandy inundated our communities, many in Lower Manhattan had to bear the brunt of our City's rat problem. The Mayor’s plan recognizes the need to focus on areas that require the most resources, and I look forward to seeing our NYCHA buildings like Smith, La Guardia and Rutgers Houses receive essential upgrades like rat-proofed buildings, new trash compactors, and innovative trash containers that keep rats out. I hope to see the upgrades in these pilot Mitigation Areas expand to the rest of my district and neighborhoods across the city. Thanks to the efforts of Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Bassett, one day soon, New Yorkers will no longer have to view pesky rat encounters as a normal part of their daily lives.”

“For the past three and a half years, the de Blasio Administration has taken rat prevention very seriously,” said Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of the Committee on Health. “This latest effort is yet another example of how the Administration is utilizing every tool at its disposal to reduce the rat population. We all have a responsibility to do our part and I’m grateful that the City is allocating resources to assist communities in this effort. I’d like to thank Mayor de Blasio for his focus on making New York and even more livable City.”

Council Member Ritchie Torres, Chair of Public Housing Committee said, “The rat population in New York City poses a major public health concern. I am pleased with what appear to be smart investments the Administration is proposing, which include long overdue replacements of NYCHA trash compactors, and more accessible methods for submitting work orders in public housing. These investments will help to mitigate health risks for New Yorkers who are most acutely affected by this issue.” 

Council Member Vanessa Gibson said, “Rats spread disease, exacerbate asthma, and diminish overall quality of life. New Yorkers deserve better and I applaud the Administration for undertaking this important new initiative to protect public health. I thank Mayor de Blasio for investing in the health and safety of our communities and look forward to cleaner, rat free communities.”

“This plan will stop rats at the source and will bring the added benefit of increased participation in NYC’s organics collection program, helping us reach our zero waste goals and create a cleaner, greener NYC, ” said Council Member Brad Lander.  “I commend Mayor de Blasio, Commissioner Garcia and Commissioner Bassett for working together to make these critical investments to improve the quality of life in NYC’s most rat-infested neighborhoods.”

Minority Leader Steven Matteo said, “Since I took office, I have been working with my colleagues, DSNY and this Administration to provide more resources and more focus on cleaning up the litter and garbage and combatting the illegal dumping that plagues our communities. This filth provides the underlying conditions that foster rats and other rodents, making this not just a quality of life issue, but a public health issue. I will continue to work with the Administration and DSNY on this new program to reduce the threat of rats and other important cleanup efforts.”

“Rat infestations have been an ongoing nuisance in our city for a long time and the problem has only gotten worse because there has never been a real plan in place to eradicate them. I welcome the news that the city is implementing a multi-agency rat reduction plan that includes Bushwick and Bed-Stuy in its targeted area. Eliminating these pesky vermin from our streets and buildings will make the city cleaner and healthier. I commend the Mayor for his efforts,” Council Member Rafael L. Espinal, Jr. said. 

“Rats are destroying neighborhoods and endangering people.  I’ve seen the impact of rat infestations in my district- parents afraid to leave children alone in their beds, family members suffering from rat bites, homes structurally damaged.  It’s time to take major steps to fix this problem.  I commend Mayor de Blasio’s multi-agency approach to strengthen rat abatement programs and reduce rat activity by 70%,” said Council Member Fernando Cabrera

“Community Board 3 is very excited to hear about this rat reduction plan. It covers everything we have been asking for in our District Needs Statement: larger, rat proof corner baskets, more pickups, reducing food sources, and solar compactor waste containers. Our budget priorities for the last year also listed additional corner baskets and pickups. It is as if CB 3 is getting everything on our wish list,” said Susan Stetzer, District Manager of Manhattan Community Board 3. “We have also been focusing for several years on problems in NYCHA and working with NYCHA, residents and the Department of Health. This past year we have finally seen the beginning of a reversal in the active rat signs in CB 3 because of the tremendous effort put into the rat recovery program by our exceptional colleagues at the DOHMH. This new program should turn the tide on rats in CB 3, and we look forward to our continued work with the coordinated agencies.”

Wellington Z. Chen, Executive Director of the Chinatown Partnership said, “We are thrilled and delighted to learn of this great investment to help stem one of the scourges that have plagued the area since the days when Charles Dickens visited this City. There is no better investment than a green and environmentally friendly that will drastically reduce the number of single use plastic bags, and reduce odor emission and denying rodents their open source of smorgasbord. Sorry Ratatouille, we know that we have great Chinese, Italian and other great food in the area but you will have to search elsewhere!”

“Rodents have been a terrible problem on the Lower East Side for a long time” said Jessica Thomas, TA President La Guardia Houses. “I’m happy to see that the Mayor is investing in a serious solution to what is essentially a health issue. I look forward to working with him and the city on making things better for the residents of La Guardia and the surrounding NYCHA developments.”   

“We applaud Mayor de Blasio’s efforts to improve the quality of life for those we serve, the majority of whom live on the Lower East Side, many in public housing,” said David Garza, Executive Director of Henry Street Settlement. “Investing in the health and well-being of our community will serve to enhance our human service work of providing opportunities for families and individuals.”

“So many of our seniors, children and families utilize the parks they need a clean and sanitary place to play and convene,” said Isabel Ching, Executive Director of Hamilton-Madison House. “So glad to see that the Mayor is concentrating on cleaning high density and usage areas of the city to control the pest infestations.”

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