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City Anti-Rat Initiative Will Forbid Leaving Trash on Curb Overnight

 Mayor de Blasio presents a solar trash can as part of the city's new rat reduction program.
Mayor de Blasio presents a solar trash can as part of the city's new rat reduction program.
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Courtesy of the New York City Mayoral Photography Office

LOWER EAST SIDE — The city will roll out solar trash cans and forbid leaving trash on the curb for more than two hours in neighborhoods plagued by rats in efforts to significantly reduce the rodent population.

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday announced the $32 million plan to tackle rat infestations by starving out the creatures and destroying their homes in three areas riddled with the vermin. They include Chinatown, the East Village and the Lower East Side in Manhattan; Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn; and the Grand Concourse area of The Bronx, where residents have gotten sick from a disease transmitted by rat urine.

Officials claim the initiative will cut down on rats in those neighborhoods by up to 70 percent by starving them out and destroying their homes.

Neither the mayor nor representatives from the Department of Sanitation or the Department of Health, who helped launch the initiative, were able to estimate the number of rats currently populating the areas, but stated the program's success would be gauged by a decrease in 311 complaints and rat burrows.

A total of 336 rat-proof trash cans will be rolled out beginning Thursday, with 84 in the Lower East Side parks, 118 in Chinatown and 20 in Tompkins Square Park.

Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, whose district includes Tompkins Square Park, said she was particularly thrilled to learn of the new initiative.

"The rats walk with us on the pathways, and down Avenue C I've had to come out of restaurants running into the street to get way from rats," she said. "Some of my staff on the way home, they live in public housing, have had rats run over their feet."

The plan also includes a proposed local law that would cut down the time garbage can be left on the curb outside larger buildings by 12 hours. Properties with more than 10 units wouldn't be able to take out the trash until 4 a.m. — two hours before pickups begin — instead of the current 4 p.m. requirement.

Fines for illegal dumping would also go up significantly, with citations for private businesses going from $1,500 to $5,000.

Finally, dirt floors in the basements of NYCHA buildings — which are currently a haven for rats — will be cemented over to help discourage habitats, according to the agencies.

The initiative will also increase trash pickups, with basket empyting carried out daily.

While the new trash cans will be rolled out almost immediately, the other aspects of the plan are expected to kick in by the end of the year. 

If the initiative proves successful in the targeted zones, the city will look at expanding the tactics, de Blasio said.