Bedford-Stuyvesant

Rat problem? Here are some ways to kick them to the curb.

February 21, 2020 Paul Frangipane
The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene holds a community rat prevention training, or rat academy at the Marcy Branch of Brooklyn Public Library on Feb. 20, 2020. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

Rats are smart, not lazy, are perpetually gnawing and communicate with their excrement. These are some of the rodent facts taught at citywide rat academies that have the goal of educating communities on how to identify and prevent rat problems.

In a community room of the Marcy Library in Bedford-Stuyvesant Thursday night, about two dozen people came ready to study up.

Rat academies run by the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene started in 2016 as part of an initiative by the mayor’s office to reduce the city’s rat population. In 2017, the city vowed to target three areas in the city with high rat concentrations, including parts of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick.

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“The rodent problem is an ongoing problem and the more people that are involved, the easier it is to bring down the rat population in New York City,” said Martha Morales, the presenter of Thursday’s class.

Morales attributed a large number of rats in Brooklyn to construction and an increase in residents.

“Brooklyn is receiving a lot of people that are moving in,” Morales said. “With more people, there’s more garbage, and garbage feeds rats, so rats are being attracted to Brooklyn.”

Prospect Heights has had the most 311 rat complaints citywide since 2017, Bklyner reported, with over 200 more complaints than Bed-Stuy and Bushwick.

Using a PowerPoint presentation, Morales went over the steps for addressing rat problems, beginning with looking for evidence.


If rats discover an area that seems safe for them and has food nearby, they’ll start to communicate with other rats in the area and leave clues.

Community Coordinator Martha Morales of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene holds a community rat prevention training, or rat academy at the Marcy Branch of Brooklyn Public Library. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle
Community Coordinator Martha Morales of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene holds a community rat prevention training, or rat academy, at the Marcy Branch of Brooklyn Public Library. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

“Rodents communicate with each other a lot. They’re able to communicate with each other not through speech, but through their feces, their pheromones and their urine,” Morales said.

Once its known that rats are in the area, it’s important to starve them and shut them out. If they become stressed, they’ll move on to another environment.

To stress them out, Morales recommended managing garbage and interrupting the rats’ routes by sealing holes, cracks and pipes, installing metal door sweeps and closing nearby burrows, which look like holes in the ground.

Rats can fit through holes the size of a quarter, and mice through the size of a dime. When they’re given the opportunity to eat and stay healthy, rats can produce up to 84 offspring a year. At two months old, those offspring can also start to reproduce.

Rat academies operate under a “host your own” model, meaning community members need to reach out to the Department of Health to host an academy in their neighborhood.

The block on DeKalb Avenue where the Bed-Stuy academy was held had at least 10 active rat signs as of Jan. 8, 2020, according to the city’s rat information portal.

Morales told the crowd it was up to everyone to help curb the rat population in New York City.

“Continue to stress out these rats so that they’re not attracted to your space,” she said. “Claim your space back.”


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  1. CaptainPlanetOne

    Are you aware that prior to the fiscal crisis in the 70s, all trash cans were metal, had lids and were kept behind the gates of your house? Sanitation workers went behind the gate, dragged your cans to their truck and returned to your house. This change is almost never referenced but it’s clearly what led to our rat crisis. Now residents don’t even use buckets which offer some protection from rats, but leave their food laden plastic bags at the curb over night. While residents sleep, rats dine. If folks separate food scraps and put them at the curb in brown buckets with sealed lids, rats have a very hard time getting at the food they want and need. Why doesn’t the Rat Academy talk about this?

    If you’d like to know more about Organics and how your community can fight the rat problem, consider hosting a presentation by the Brooklyn Solid Waste Advisory Board called “Reimagine Organics: A Community Conversation”. We can be reached at [email protected].