Brooklyn Boro

The war on rats ramps up as Brooklyn quadruples inspections

September 19, 2019 Kelly Mena
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A new report shows that the city has been increasing its efforts to keep rat populations down — particularly in Brooklyn, where inspections for the pesky rodents have quadrupled since 2015.

New York City’s Independent Budget Office has revealed that Brooklyn had the most initial rodent inspections by the city’s health department — which includes inspections for mice as well as rats — in 2018, growing from 14,929 in 2015 to a whopping 64,361 last year. Initial inspections may be the first in a series; if evidence of rodents are found, there may be follow-ups not included in these numbers.

The increase in inspections, according to the budget agency, is due to the expansion of rodent indexing — scouting for rats and signs of rats across targeted areas — prioritized under the de Blasio administration’s Neighborhood Rat Reduction Initiative in 2017.

These efforts were particularly concentrated in Brooklyn neighborhoods with high infestations: Bedford-Stuyvesant, Bushwick, Prospect Heights and Crown Heights North, according to the report — the same neighborhoods that a RentHop study showed had an uptick in rat sightings in recent years.

“The de Blasio administration’s 2017 plan for dealing with rodent issues in the city were targeting many neighborhoods in North Brooklyn and the inspection data shows that effort,” said Doug Turetsky, the city’s budget office spokesperson.

The report goes on to note that investment in the rat reduction initiative has grown from a total funding of $7.4 million in fiscal year 2014 to $12.2 million budgeted for 2019 — a 65 percent increase.

The spike in rodent indexing inspections is a result of recent city efforts that target “rat reservoirs” — areas that provide a prime rat ecosystem — and a reporting change that classifies any complaint made in these targeted areas as an indexing inspection, the report goes on to state.

So far this year, the city’s Health Department has performed more than 42,000 inspections in Brooklyn, according to agency spokesperson Michael Lanza, with all community districts having received at least 170 inspections.

The report comes as Brooklyn Borough President and mayoral hopeful Eric Adams has criticized the de Blasio administration’s efforts to combat the rat populations, particularly the use of $5.6 million since 2016 on mint-infused repellant bags and “rat candy” (poison) by health officials.

Earlier this month, Adams unveiled a “humane” rat-killing trap filled with nearly 100 carcasses as a sign of the success the new tool could have if used citywide. He went on to announce that he plans to spend a portion of the discretionary funding left in his budget to launch two pilot programs in the near future — one in Bed-Stuy and one in NYCHA.

“This new report confirms what we’ve been saying all along: New York is struggling with a rat crisis, and the current strategies aren’t working,” said Adams.

“The goal with rat mitigation is to move toward sterilization in the long-term, and we encourage the city to do so. But in the meantime, we need to find humane ways to deal with the crisis affecting our communities.”

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