Uptown Neighborhoods Infested With Rats, City Data Says

By Carla Zanoni on March 26, 2012 7:43am 

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Washington Heights had fewer reported rats in 2011, but still more than other Manhattan neighborhoods.
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DNAinfo/Michael Miguez

MANHATTAN — Rats are showing their teeth uptown.

A recent report from the city’s Department of Health revealed that Upper Manhattan’s Community Board 12 has the highest reported rate of rat infestation in the borough — with 306 verified during an inspection of 2,616 sites in Inwood and Washington Heights in 2011.  

However, the district did experience a 4 percent drop in its reported rat population between 2010 and 2011, according to Department of Mental Health and Hygiene records

The Lower East Side and East Village come in second in Manhattan with an 11.4 percent rat infestation rate in 2011, based on 492 reported rat infestations verified out of 4,279 inspections. 

Murray Hill and Gramercy had the fewest reported rats in 2011, with a 0.3 percent infestation rate, based on 95 reported rat infestations verified out of 2,798 inspections

“Part of the reduction in active rat signs we’re seeing in Washington Heights and Inwood can be attributed to our proactive indexing program, which inspects every property in the community,” a DOH spokeswoman told DNAInfo, noting that the department has also increased rat baiting in the past year. 

Despite the reported decrease uptown, Becky O’Hannigan, 36, said rats continue to be an issue near her home on West 175th Street and Fort Washington Avenue. 

“I’ve had rats run across the sidewalk next to me when I’m walking my dog, and they’re always rattling the garbage cans outside my building,” the Washington Heights resident, 23, told DNAinfo.

“It’s disgusting.”

The teeming rat population in Upper Manhattan spurred Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer to call on the city to better fund its rat-fighting program last year, as it moved to cut 63 inspectors from the DOH’s rolls in early 2011. 

But Mayor Michael Bloomberg dismissed the concerns, saying "the city is doing a great job" combating the pests.

According to the Health Department, efforts to track and reduce the population have been ramped up over the past several years. 

Upper Manhattan has the highest reported rate of rat infestation in Manhattan.
Upper Manhattan has the highest reported rate of rat infestation in Manhattan.
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Health Department

Inspectors respond to complaints from business owners and residents, and visit designated areas in order to look for signs of rats — like gnawed garbage bags, droppings and burrows. They inspect “most properties even if no complaint has been received,” according to its website

The department notes where rats live in Manhattan and The Bronx on its “rat indexing” electronic mapping system and identifies rat “hot spots and return[s] to areas with high failure rates multiple times.” 

But Community Board 12 chairwoman Pamela Palanque-North said more needs to be done. 

She said the board is “deeply concerned and outraged” that "one of the most densely populated districts in the borough [that] has a very high number of school-age children and youth has the highest number of reported rats in the borough." 

In response, Palanque-North said the board plans to partner with the DOH and others to offer a series of rat-control workshops for building managers and supervisors this spring, as it has in the past.

“This rat infestation is a public health emergency,” she said, “which demands immediate and sustained resources and action by the [Department of Health], our elected officials and residents.”

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