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De Blasio Pledges to Decrease UWS Rat Population by At Least 80 Percent

By Jackson Chen | September 29, 2017 7:33am
 De Blasio announces rat mitigation for the Upper West Side in Hippo Playground.
De Blasio announces rat mitigation for the Upper West Side in Hippo Playground.
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DNAinfo/Jackson Chen

UPPER WEST SIDE — NYC to Rattus norvegicus: Drop dead.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a $750,000 effort to wrest control of the Upper West Side from the pizza-fiending disease goblins at a press conference Thursday.

"We know how tough it is to fight rats and we know it'll be a long time before we eradicate them totally," de Blasio said. "But we also know we can do a lot better, and what is unacceptable is to have the quality of life of people in our neighborhoods undermined by rats."

The move comes after reports of rats jumping into baby strollers and running rampant across the neighborhood's parks and playgrounds this past summer.

The city's concentrated rat reduction efforts will include new waste containers, stricter enforcement, and increased baiting and pest control efforts. The plan will target eight parks and four schools which have shown significant rat issues. To prevent the rat problem from growing, Parks Department staff will patrol problem areas educating people on rats, and also ticketing park vendors who are not following food management protocols.

The administration expects this combination of efforts to yield an 80 to 90 percent reduction in rat populations on the Upper West Side.

"What we've learned is, this is a tough enemy. To get at rats, you can't deal with the problem superficially, you have to go to the root cause," de Blasio said. "Here's the bottom line: rats need food. If they don't have food, they don't hang around."

To eliminate the rat's food source, the city will install 29 new Bigbelly solar-powered trash compactors throughout the Upper West Side. According to Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, who set aside funding to get more of the trash cans in her district, there will be two at each of the 11 playgrounds and parks that span Riverside Park, and seven outside her district that are expected to arrive by November. Schools will also get compacting dumpsters to prevent storing their waste on the sidewalks.

In addressing the vermin themselves, both the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Parks Department will increase their efforts with more bait stations, plugging rat burrows, and pruning greenery where rats often take shelter. The Parks Department is also hiring an exterminator and three parks workers specifically for the Upper West Side.

Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, who became involved in the issue after hearing numerous constituent complaints, was also investigating alternative remediation methods. Rosenthal said dry ice, which is put into rat burrows to asphyxiate them, was recently cleared for use in the city. The Health Department said earlier in the year that it was working on a pilot program with ContraPest, a contraceptive for rodents designed by SenesTech. A small-scale pilot project was recently started to test the effectiveness of ContraPest, according to the department, which added that evaluations usually take up to a year and said it was too early to offer details on its effectiveness.

"As a city, we unfortunately for a long long time [have] been associated with rats and as New Yorkers, we really really don't like rats," de Blasio said. "It's an association we don't want anymore and we'd love to get to the day where rats are not part of our lives anymore."

Here are the areas the administration will be specifically targeting in their rat eradication efforts:

• Henry Neufeld Playground

• River Run Playground

• Hippo Playground

• Dinosaur Playground

• Joan of Arc Memorial

• Theodore Roosevelt Park

• Diana Ross Playground

• Booker T. Washington Playground

• P.S. 75 Emily Dickinson

• P.S. 165 Robert E. Simon

• M.S. 54 Booker T. Washington

• P.S. 811 Mickey Mantle