NYC to Host First National Rat Summit

Leaders of the rat race prepare to swap strategies.



Leaders of the rat race prepare to swap strategies.



New York City recently announced that it will host a summit on urban rat control from Sept. 18 to 19 in partnership with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) and the NYS Integrated Pest Management Program at Cornell University. The summit will feature experts from cities like Boston, New Orleans, and Seattle, along with rat researchers from across the nation, to discuss best practices on rodent mitigation and advance the science of urban rat management. The summit is the latest in a series of moves to address NYC’s rodent population.

The summit comes as New York City continues to make progress in implementing a holistic integrated pest management strategy, focused on identifying rat hotspots and removing conditions that allow rats to thrive. Mayor Adams has made rat mitigation a cornerstone of his administration, launching a series of anti-rat initiatives, including the appointment of Kathleen Corradi as the city’s first rat czar and the implementation of Rat Mitigation Zones in particularly problematic areas in Manhattan and the Bronx.

Trash Plan

Part of the holistic pest management strategy are efforts to containerize all 14 billion pounds of trash that the city currently produces every year. In October 2022, the city changed set-out times for both residential and commercial waste. It shifted from 4 p.m., one of the earliest set-out times in the country, to 8 p.m. in April 2023, while also allowing earlier set-out if the material is in a container.

The incentives for containerization were paired with major changes to DSNY operations, picking up well over a quarter of all trash at 12 a.m. rather than 6 a.m., particularly in high-density parts of the city, and ending a practice by which up to one-fifth of trash had been purposefully left out for a full day. And as of March 1, container requirements went into effect for all businesses in the city to get their trash off the streets and into a secure bin. Later this fall, container requirements will go into effect for low-density residential buildings, those with one to nine units, and approximately 70 percent of all trash in the city will be containerized.

Beyond Extermination

Further, DOHMH conducts proactive inspections and complaint inspections enforcement. The agency uses a targeted strategy that extends to Rat Mitigation Zones, where city agencies focus resources to address rats and the conditions that support them. Other efforts to reduce rat activity range from technical assistance to extermination, education, and public engagement.

Finally, NYCHA has designated 45 exterminators to treat NYCHA public spaces and rolled out training on more efficient methods of treating grounds. They’ve also invested in more effective equipment that puts pesticides directly into rat burrows, as well as non-pesticide mitigation methods like carbon dioxide tanks, carbon monoxide-based Burrow Rx machines, and snap traps. Additionally, they’ve launched an exclusion team that seals window vents to basements and a rat burrow collapse team that collapses rat burrows, aiding in the prevention of mating and overall tracking of active rat colonies.

As a result of the administration’s broader integrated pest management approach, the city reports that rat sightings reported to 311 continue to decline. The total decrease across the covered period was 6.3 percent and almost 14 percent in the city’s Rat Mitigation Zones.