De Blasio Announces $32M Neighborhood Rat Reduction Plan
Mayor Bill de Blasio recently 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 NYC Housing Authority buildings, 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.
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 percent 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 shown to reduce resident-generated work orders related to rats at NYCHA facilities by 40 percent. Additionally, $8.8 million will be invested in new NYCHA trash compactors to properly store waste, often replacing machines more than 20 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 would require buildings containing more than 10 units within the Mitigation Zones to curb garbage after 4 a.m. 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 pickup has already begun, with increased DSNY residential pickup 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. The administration intends to work with the 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 a.m. in DOHMH-set areas and 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.