NYC’s rat-fighting mayor fined over infestation at own house

December 7, 2022 Karen Matthews, Associated Press
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
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BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — New York City Mayor Eric Adams is such an enemy of rats that he once called a press conference to demonstrate a contraption for drowning them. Now Adams finds himself contesting a $300 fine issued by his own administration over a rat infestation at a building he owns in Brooklyn.

Adams was issued a summons by the city health department on May 10 after a health inspector spotted “fresh rat droppings” at his townhouse on Lafayette Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

The New York Times reports that Adams dialed into a city administrative court hearing on Tuesday to contest the $300 fine, which he was issued after first ignoring the summons.

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Adams told the hearing officer that he had spent nearly $7,000 battling rats at the property and had even used the rat-drowning device that he promoted in 2019 when he was Brooklyn borough president, the Times said.

Adams noted that city laws are designed to penalize homeowners for failing to take steps to prevent and control rodents, according to the Times. “I took those steps,” he said, “and will continue to do so.”

The hearing officer with the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, known as OATH, said he would render a verdict within 30 days.

After Adams failed to respond to the initial rat summons, he was found in violation by default.

The Times reported that Adams had Rahul Agarwal, a deputy chief counsel in the mayor’s office, file a motion to vacate on the mayor’s behalf on Sept. 8. In the motion, Agarwal said Adams had not learned of the summons until Sept. 1 because he now lives in Gracie Mansion, the mayor’s residence in Manhattan.

This week’s administrative hearing was scheduled after Agarwal requested an adjournment of an earlier meeting date on behalf of Adams, according to the Times.

The leader of a government watchdog group criticized the involvement of a city lawyer in the matter.

“City resources should be used for city business, not the personal affairs of the mayor or any other elected official,” said Betsy Gotbaum, executive director of the Citizens Union. “The mayor should not be tasking any City Hall employee with helping him resolve what is clearly a private legal manner.”

A spokesperson for Adams said the mayor had done nothing improper. “He spent thousands of dollars to remediate an infestation at his residence in Brooklyn earlier this year, and was happy to appear before OATH today to state as much,” the mayor’s press secretary, Fabien Levy, said in a statement Tuesday.

The administrative hearing took place a week after Adams, a Democrat who has been mayor since the start of this year, posted a job listing for a director of rodent mitigation — AKA rat czar. The ideal candidate is “highly motivated and somewhat bloodthirsty, determined to look at all solutions from various angles, including improving operational efficiency, data collection, technology innovation, trash management, and wholesale slaughter,” according to the ad.

Levy said Adams “has made no secret of the fact that he hates rats — whether scurrying around on the streets or terrorizing building tenants.”

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