If you live in neighborhoods like the East Village, Bushwick, Brooklyn, or the Grand Concourse area of the Bronx, you may already be accustomed to seeing more than your average number of rats scurrying around NYC streets. But, the New York Times reports that there is currently an influx of rodent life across the city — much more than in years’ past, and partly due to unpredictable effects of the pandemic. And New Yorkers are noticing.
According to 311, there have been more than 21,000 rat sightings reported just this year, which is a 40 percent increase since the same time last year. The Times also reports that the rate of health inspections to look for “active rat signs” has nearly doubled over the past year. And this year there has been the most number of cases since 2006 of a rare disease that typically spreads via rat urine (leptospirosis).
Basically, what experts in the field say is that the pandemic created the perfect rat-infested storm in NYC.
First, restaurants shut down ,which meant rats had to search for food on the streets. There also was more trash on the streets because of DOS (Department of Sanitation) budget cuts, and people spending more time at home so overall there was more residential trash being distributed and collected on the sidewalks.
Then, construction started back up again and the streets filled with outdoor dining, driving the rodents out into the open even more. Followed by a warmer (and wetter) than usual summer, NYC became a prime breeding ground for the rat population.
Though now it’s getting cold again so we likely won’t see them as much, just wait for a giant comeback this spring.
There are also concerns that the outdoor dining set-ups could become “potential feeding grounds” for rat populations. There’s more garbage, food out in the open, and even the structures can make it difficult for garbage trucks to get through and collect trash efficiently.
Though sanitation budgets have been mostly restored and restaurants are being especially careful to keep their structures clean and sanitized, it seems many New Yorkers still feel the city is dirtier than usual…and that includes many more rats.