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Rat Infestation in Brooklyn Spurred by Building Boom

Residents in Prospect Heights, Bedford Stuyvesant, Bushwick and Brownsville report more rat sightings than anywhere else in the city.
rat, BK Reader
Photo credit: Flickr

Rats are taking over the city, and gentrification is the culprit, which is not only displacing people but also rats, reports the NY Times. The city's construction boom is digging up burrows, forcing more rats out into the open, experts say.

Four Brooklyn neighborhoods are more affected by the plague than any other section of the city, with the exception of the Upper West Side: Prospect Heights, Bedford Stuyvesant, Bushwick and Brownsville. Since 2010, Brooklyn has been the worst borough for rat sightings with 44,850 or roughly one in every three cases, according to nonprofit watchdog, which based its findings on city data. In Prospect Heights alone, there have been 2,948 rat sightings since 2010.

There, rats have made themselves particularly comfortable on a block of Lincoln Place where a run-down building is being renovated while several new buildings are going up nearby, worsening the infestation. Despite numerous complaints to city officials and calls to 311, the rats keep coming out in droves. Residents say they live off trash left outside the building under renovation, which has failed ten city health inspections since last year, according to city records.

And the city's garbage removal process may be adding to the problem, as New Yorkers are prompted to leave trash bags outside on the curb, providing an "an all-night buffet for the rats," said Jason Munshi-South, a biology professor at Fordham University, who has led "rat safaris" to observe the vermin in Chinatown.

Milder winters that make it easier for rats to survive and reproduce, and an increase of trash produced by the city's growing population and thriving tourism, are other contributing factors fueling the crisis.

In 2017, Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a war on rats and unveiled a $32 million plan to eradicate the problem, which included increased litter basket pickups, solar-powered, trash compacting bins and rat-resistant steel cans in high-need areas like Bedford Stuyvesant.

"There is no doubt that rats have a major impact on New Yorkers' quality of life and this administration takes seriously our responsibility to control and mitigate their population," said Laura Anglin, deputy mayor of operations. "No New Yorker likes having rats in their community and we are committed to continuing the work of controlling rats in all of our neighborhoods."

However, the campaign ended last year, and rats are making a huge comeback with population levels to be about 70 percent higher today.

City health inspections found 30,874 instances of "active rat signs," which including sightings and droppings at properties last year, are nearly double the 16,315 instances reported in 2014. In the first three months of this year, there were 8,003 inspection reports of active rat signs, up from 6,787 in the same period last year.

If you want to see how your neighborhood is affected by the rat infestation, go here.