In the rat race of New York City, it seems like the real winners are the actual rodents.
The number of complaints about rats has reached an all-time high, with more than 24,000 calls this year—an indication that the population has grown in droves. Pizza Rat notwithstanding, that's just gross.
One Upper West Side resident went so far as to call the infestation the “Burning Man of rats.” She told the Associated Press that she has complained several times about a nest of the beady-eyed rodents, and added dejectedly, “I don’t know what the city can do about this rat condominium.”
City comptroller Scott Stringer has taken on the so-called “rat crisis,” scolding everyone from the MTA and the city health department for not handling the infestation expediently. "I've seen rats walking upright, saying, 'Good morning, Mr. Comptroller," he told the AP. "It's unsightly to see rats running through neighborhoods like they actually bought a co-op somewhere."
But the rat problem is largely a people problem, Standard Pest Management president Gil Bloom tells us. “People need to make an effort to outsmart the rats,” he says, noting that many people are lackadaisical with their trash and recycling habits, often putting garbage out in bags that are easy to chew through and leaving scraps of food in recyclables.
Bloom says there are neighborhoods that are more rat-infested than others—namely, Chinatown, Washington Heights, and the rat haven that is Tompkins Square Park in the East Village.
Per the AP, Mayor Bill de Blasio has set aside more than $2 million to target the critters, but until the rats are eradicated completely from the city, there are a few simple things you can do to try to keep your home rodent-free.
Rat-proof your trash and rinse out your recyclables
Bloom says the easiest way for rats to get attracted to an area is the smell of food – and they just need an ounce of it daily to survive. So keep rats out with rat-proof trash bags or plastic garbage bins and put trash as close to the curb as possible on pick-up days.
Cleanliness is next to ratlessness
In the same vein, make sure to keep trash cans away from the apartment, if possible, and keep the areas around trash cans clean.
Seal the deal
Rats only need a quarter-sized space to infiltrate a basement or ground-floor apartment, so don’t give them that chance. Use a flashlight to find any possible crawl spaces and make sure ever nook and cranny is sealed off against a possible Ratatouille-style siege.
One final tip from Bloom? “Maybe don’t live above a restaurant,” he says.