Metrofocus: August 15, 2022

As the city emerges out of the COVID pandemic, rat complaints have exploded – up 60% from pre-pandemic levels.  Some blame the proliferation of outdoor dining, which seem to provide a tempting feast for the city’s roaming rodents.  But is that really what’s going on, or is there more to the story?  Tonight, we hear from urban rat expert Michael Parsons, visiting research scholar at Fordham University who says his work has given him valuable insight into what makes city rats tick; freelance journalist T.M. Brown shares his investigation into a growing phenomenon: rats getting under the hood of New Yorkers’ cars and creating havoc; and NYC Councilmember Sandy Nurse [D-District 37], chair of the Council’s Sanitation Committee, talks about lawmakers’ “Rat Action Plan”, and tells us why gentrification and inequality are exacerbating the problem in underserved neighborhoods.

TRANSCRIPT

> TONIGHT, RATS -- IN THE SUBWAY, ON THE STREETS AND EVERYONE UNDER THE HOOD OFFURE CAR.

A RAT EXPERT WEIGHS IN ON WHY THESE CRAZY ENCOUNTERS ARE UP ACROSS THE CITY.

> AND THE LAWMAKER PROMOTE A RAT ACTION PLAN TELLS HOW THE CITY PLANS TO TAKE THE VERMEN OUT.

'METROFOCUS' STARTS RIGHT NOW.

> THIS IS 'METROFOCUS,' WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

> 'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

AND BY --

> GOOD EVENING, AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M RAFAEL PI ROMAN.

RATS IN PARKS, RATS IN RESTAURANTS, RATS IN BUILDINGS, RATS IN CARS.

THE RAT PROBLEM IN NEW YORK CITY MAY NOT BE NEW, BUT POST PANDEMIC, IT SEEMS TO HAVE GOTTEN MUCH, MUCH WORSE.

FOR EXAMPLE, IN THE FIRST FOUR MONTHS OF THIS YEAR, 311 RECEIVED 7,400 CALLS ABOUT RAT SIGHTINGS.

THAT'S A 60% JUMP COMPARED TO THE SAME PERIOD IN 2019 BEFORE THE PANDEMIC.

AND THE HIGHEST NUMBERS SINCE 2010, THE FIRST YEAR RECORDS BEGAN TO BE KEPT.

WHAT'S CAUSING THIS UNPLEASANT PHENOMENON?

ARE RATS MULTIPLYING IN NEW YORK CITY IN UNPRECEDENTED NUMBERS, OR IS THERE SOMETHING ELSE GOING ON THAT'S MAKE THEM FOR VISIBLE?

IS THERE ANYTHING THE CITY CAN DO TO SIGNIFICANTLY ADDRESS THE PROBLEM?

LATER IN THE PROGRAM WE'LL TALK TO THE CITY COUNCIL SANITATION COMMITTEE CHAIR SANDY NURSE, WHO, WITH THREE OF HER COLLEAGUES IS SPONSORING A SERIES OF BILLS TO ADDRESS THE LATEST RAT CRISIS.

BUT WE BEGIN WITH A DISCUSSION ABOUT THE EXTENT AND POSSIBLE SOURCES OF THE PROBLEM WITH TWO SPECIAL GUESTS.

MICHAEL PARSONS IS ONE OF THE COUNTRY'S LEADING RAT EXPERTS AND IS CURRENTLY A VISITING PROFESSOR AT FORDHAM.

AND TEDDY BROWN IS A FREELANCE JOURNALIST WHO WROTE A 'NEW YORK TIMES' STORY ON HOW RATS ARE INCREASINGLY TAKING REFUGE INSIDE NEW YORKERS' CARS, INCLUDING HIS OWN.

GENTLEMAN, WELCOME.

THANK YOU.

GREAT TO BE HERE, RAFAEL.

FIRST OF ALL, PROFESSOR PARSONS, HAS THERE BEEN A DRAMATIC INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF RATS IN NEW YORK SI, OR IS SOMETHING ELSE GOING ON?

WE KNOW THERE ARE SOCIAL FACTORS GOING ON, AS DURING THE PANDEMIC, PEOPLE BEGAN WORKING REMOTELY FROM HOME, SO PEOPLE ARE LEAVING THEIR VEHICLES, ONE OF THE VOCAL POINTS OF INTEREST RECENTLY.

THEY'RE LEAVING THEIR VEHICLES FOR LONGER PERIODS OF TIME WITHOUT DRIVING THEM, AND THE RATS ARE TAKING REFUGE, AND THEY'RE ALSO GETTING POTENTIAL FOOD SOURCES INSIDE THE ENGINE COMPARTMENT OF THOSE CARS.

THE WIRING HARNESSES ARE ATTRACTIVE.

SO THERE'S SOCIAL ISSUES AND MIGHT BE A MORE COMPLICATED ISSUE, AND THAT IS THE EXPANSION OF RAT POPULATIONS.

YEAH, I MEAN, I CAN GO IN AS MUCH DETAIL --

WE WILL IN A MOMENT GO INTO DETAIL ABOUT THE POSSIBLE REASONS.

THERE'S OTHERS THAT YOU HAVE WRITTEN ABOUT.

BUT JUST TO FOLLOW UP, HOW MANY RATS ARE THERE IN NEW YORK CITY?

I'VE READ FIGURES ANYWHERE FROM 250,000 TO 32 MILLION, WHICH IS NOT VERY HELPFUL.

DO WE REALLY KNOW?

WELL, YOU KNOW, RATS ARE SECRETIVE, CRYPTIC, HARD TO SPOT UNLESS THEY'RE THE AGREEGREGARI THE FEW ADVENTUROUS INDIVIDUALS OUT THERE.

SO NOBODY KNOWS.

BUT WE HAVE ESTIMATES THAT RANGE FROM 200,000 TO 32 MILLION.

RESEARCHERS TEND TO BE ON THE LOW SIDE.

WHAT WE SAY IS THEY'RE NOT EVENLY DISTRIBUTED.

THERE ARE SOME AREAS OF THE CITY WHERE THERE MIGHT BE, YOU KNOW, MAYBE .01 RATS PER INDIVIDUAL, AND THERE MAY BE OTHER INDIVIDUALS WHERE THERE'S ONE RAT PER PERSON.

ALL RIGHT.

SO, TEDDY, YOU DECIDED TO WRITE THIS PIECE FOR 'THE NEW YORK TIMES.'

I GUESS WHAT MOTIVATED YOU IS IT HAPPENED TO YOU, AND YOU WENT OUT TO TRY TO FINDOUS WHAT WAS GOING ON.

THAT'S RIGHT, IN MARCH WE DISCOVERED THERE WAS RAT ACTIVITY HAPPENING UNDER THE HOOD OF OUR CAR.

WE TOOK IT TO OUR MECHANIC.

HE SAID, TEDDY, YOU GOT TAKE A LOOK AT THEM AND PUT OUT THE GIFTS THAT RATS LEFT IN OUR CAR ENGINE.

I STARTED TALKING TO HIM AND HE SAID, MY MECHANICS I TALK TO ALL OVER THE CITY ARE SEEING MORE OF THIS.

IN DIFFERENT PLACE DIFFERENT REASONS BUT AT THE END OF THE DAY, THERE WAS JUST A LOT MORE RAT ACTIVITY HAPPENING.

I DECIDED TO SEE IF IT WAS ANECDOTAL OR NOT.

WE TALKED TO 20 MECHANICS.

20 SAID THERE HAS BEEN AN INCREASE IN RAT ACTIVITY, WHETHER IT'S CHEWING THROUGH WIRES, SOMETHING HAPPENING, SMELLS COMING FROM THE ENGINE, THAT SORT OF THING.

AND 10 OF THOSE 20 SAID THEY HAD SEEN DOUBLE THE RAT ACTIVITY.

I DECIDED THAT WAS ENOUGH TO GO IN FOR A STORY, AND HERE WE ARE.

IT'S GOT A LOT OF PLAY.

MY WIFE, BEFORE I SHE KNEW I WAS GOING TO DO THIS SEGMENT, SHE SAID, YOU GOT TO READ THIS.

TEDDY, STAYING WITH YOU, ALL THESE LARGE NUMBER OF CALLS TO 311, DO YOU THINK THAT'S AN INDICATION THAT NEW YORKERS WHO HAVE HAD MORE OR LESS A GRUDGING TOLERANCE OF THE RAT SITUATION IN NEW YORK CITY, ARE CHANGING FUNDAMENTALLY ABOUT RATS?

WELL, I THINK -- AND MIKE CAN SPEAK TO THIS IN MORE DETAIL.

EVERYTHING I KNOW FROM RATS IN NEW YORK HAS COME FROM MICHAEL PARSONS.

SOY WANT TO GIVE HIM CREDIT FOR HELPING WITH THIS.

IT'S CLEAR THERE SEEMS TO BE SOMETHING HAPPENING, AND I THINK HE WOULDN'T GO SO FAR AS A DEDICATED SCIENTIST TO SAY THERE IS DEFINITE PROOF THERE ARE MORE AT RAS ALL OVER THE CITY, BUT THERE SEEMS TO BE SOMETHING HAPPENING, WHETHER IT'S MORE BRAZEN ACTIVITY IN DAYLIGHT.

I SEE THEM RUSHING BETWEEN TRASH BAGS ON MY BLOCK IN BROOKLYN.

JUST SEE A LOT MORE OF THEM.

AND IT SEEMS LIGHT SOMETHING IS HAPPENING, BUT I'LL LET MICHAEL TAKE THE REINS OF WHAT EXACTLY IS GOING ON.

MICHAEL, YOU STARTED TALK ABOUT THE REASONS ELABORATE.

IN 2021, WE STARTED LOOKING AT THE PRE-PANDEMIC RAT CALLS, PUBLIC SERVICE CALLS 3RK 11, AND LOOKED AT THE FIRST SIX MONTHS OF PANDEMIC PERIOD AND ASKED, WHAT'S GOING ON WITH THE NUMBER OF CALLS?

BECAUSE WE'RE HEARING A LOT OF ANECDOTES THAT SOMETHING IS GOING ON.

ONE RAT IS DEVOURING ANOTHER RAT, OR MORE RATS ARE BEING SEEN ON THE STREET.

SO WE THOUGHT THERE WAS GOING TO BE A DRAMATIC INCREASE IN 311 CALLS.

WHAT WE FOUND WAS REALLY SURPRISING AND IRONIC, BECAUSE WE FOUND THERE HAVE A 30% DECREASE IN RAT CALLS TO 311.

SO, I HAD A COLLEAGUE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND, JONATHAN RICHARDSON, AND HE SAID, YOU KNOW WHAT?

LET'S DO -- USE SPATIAL ANALYSIS TOOLS AND IDENTIFY HOT SPOTS OF RAT ACTIVITY, RESTAURANTS, FOOD ESTABLISHMENTS, DELLIS AND FIND OUT IF THE CALLS ARE DECREASING IN THESE AREAS BECAUSE THEY'RE CLOSING DOWN.

WE LOOK AT THAT DATA AND FOUND WHILE THE OVERALL RAT CALLS ARE GOING DOWN 30%, INDICATING RATS ARE UNDER DURESS -- THEY'RE ON THE MOVE MORE, DEVOURING ONE ANOTHER -- AT THE SAME TIME IN THE AREAS AROUND RESTAURANTS THEY HAD GONE UP BY A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT.

AND SO, YOU KNOW, THEY'RE GOING UP IN THESE AREAS, NEAR RESTAURANTS.

THEY'RE GOING DOWN.

WHAT DOES IT TELL US?

TELLS US THE POPULATIONS ARE POTENTIALLY BEHAVING DIFFERENTLY AND ADAPTING TO THE SAME SOCIAL PRESSURES WE ALL ARE AND FINDING FOOD SOURCES, NEARBY NEIGHBORHOODS.

LET ME JUST ASK YOU, BECAUSE THIS IS THE FIRST THING THAT PEOPLE THINK IS THE NEW OUTDOOR DINING IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST REASONS WHY THIS IS HAPPENING.

IS IT, MICHAEL?

I THINK THAT'S A BIT OF A SCAPEGOAT.

THAT'S ONE SYMPTOM OF A LARGER ISSUE, AND THE ISSUE REALLY IS RATS ARE A REFLECTION OF US AS PEOPLE AND OUR HYGIENE.

WHEN YOU SINGLE OUT ONE ISSUE, WHETHER IT'S CONSTRUCTION OR WHETHER IT'S, YOU KNOW, OUTDOOR DINING OR WHETHER IT'S, YOU KNOW, SOMEONE IS NOT CLEANING UP THEIR RUBBISH ON THEIR PARTICULAR AREA, IT'S REALLY TAKEN FOCUS OFF THE BIG PICTURE.

TO ME IT'S SCAPEGOAT WHEN THERE ARE MORE SERIOUS ISSUES THAT NEED TO BE LOOK AT, AND THAT IS OUR HYGIENE.

NEW YORKERS CERTAINLY START TO BELIEVE THAT --. TEDDY, I RECENTLY RED AN ARTICLE ABOUT AN OUTDOOR DINER IN CHELSEA WHO LOOKED UP WHILE HAVING A DINNER AND SUDDENLY SAW A HAT ON THE EDGE OF HER TABLE.

UNDERSTANDABLY, SHE SAID, I THINK I'M OFF OUTDOOR DINING FOR NOW.

DO YOU THINK THIS RAT SITUATION WILL DAMPEN THE ENTHUSIASM THAT WE NEW YORKERS HAVE HAD FOR OUTDOOR DINING SINCE IT BEGAN AFTER THE LOCKDOWNS?

THAT'S A VERY GOOD QUESTION.

I THINK MICHAEL'S POINT ABOUT THIS BEING SYMPTOMATIC OF LARGER ISSUES IS SALIENT, BECAUSE SIT A SANITATION AND HYGIENE ISSUE.

THEY WERE ONE OF THE FEW CITIES THAT HAS PYRAMIDS OF BLACK GARBAGE BAGS ALL OVER THE PLACE.

THAT'S EASY PICKING.

IT'S FULL OF FOOD, FULL OF GOOD GREASY WHATEVER.

RATS ARE EAGER TO DIG IN.

THERE WAS AN ARTICLE IN 'THE TIMES' THAT CAME OUT THE SAME DAY AS MINE WHERE SHE TALKS ABOUT PILOT PROGRAM OF MORE COVERED GARBAGE SOLUTIONS YOU HAVE IN OTHER CITIES.

I LIVE IN THE BERLIN.

EVERY CORNER THERE ARE GIANT TANKED SIZED REPOSITORIES FOR GARBAGE, WHERE YOU THROW EVERYTHING OR RISK A MASSIVE FINE.

THAT KEEPS GARBAGE OFF THE STREETS, KEEPS PESTS AND RODENT POPULATIONS DOWN AND MAKING FOR A BETTER SOCIAL HYGIENE AT LARGE.

I THINK THAT'S A HUGE COMPONENT OF HOW TO CONTROL THESE POPULATIONS AND NOT HAVE RATS BE A CONSTANT SORT OF REALITY OF LIVING IN NEW YORK.

YEAH.

SO, MICHAEL, A RAT GETTING ON TOP OF A TABLE WHILE DINERS ARE STILL EATING MAY BE A RARE THING, BUT OBVIOUSLY FROM WHAT YOU'VE ALREADY SAID, BOTH OF YOU, THEY REALLY ARE GETTING BRAZEN.

ARE THEY ALSO GETTING MORE DANGEROUS TO HUMAN BEINGS?

AND ASIDE FROM THEIR BRAZENNESS, HOW DANGEROUS ARE ATRATS WITH RESPECT TO THE DISEASES WE CAN CONTRACT FROM THEM?

THEY CALL IT THE NORWAY RAT THE SEWER RAT FOR A REASON.

SO, YOU KNOW THAT RATS, THEY OBVIOUSLY -- THEY'RE BURROWING ANIMALS AND SPEND A LOT OF TIME UNDERSTOOD GROUND, INCLUDING IN THE SEWERS AND CAN MAKE THEIR WAY UP INTO HIGH RISE APARTMENTS BECAUSE THEY'RE AMAZING AT CLIMBING IN PIPES AND TAKING A GULP OF AIR AS THEY GO AROUND THE BENDS IN THE PIPES.

THE DIAMETER OF PIPES THEY CAN MOVE THROUGH AND TAKE A GULP OF AIR AND GO THROUGH THE NEXT STRAIGHTAWAY.

THEY CAN DO THAT ALL THE WAY UP.

SO THEY HAVE THE CAPACITY TO BRING PATHOGENS TO US.

HOW MANY, WE DON'T KNOW.

THERE WAS A STUDY IN 2018 THAT SAID RATS ARE CARRYING A NUMBER OF DOZENS OF PATHOGENS THAT HADN'T BEEN IDENTIFIED BY SCIENCE.

SO WE DON'T REALLY KNOW IF THEY'RE, YOU KNOW, INFECTIOUS OR NOT, BUT IT'S JUST GENERALLY A GOOD IDEA TO TAKE MEASURES TO TAKE CARE OF OURSELVES, TAKE CARE OF OUR RUBBISH SO WE DON'T BRING THAT RISKS INTO OUR HOMES.

BUT, YOU KNOW, THEY'RE GETTING MORE BRAZEN BECAUSE NOW THEY'RE CLOSER TO US, DEALING WITH US MORE AT ALL HOUR OF THE DAY.

DOES THAT MAKE THEM LESS AFRAID OF HUMAN BEINGS AND MORE DANGEROUS?

I THINK WHAT YOU'RE SEEING IS RATS AREN'T CHANGING THEIR BEHAVIORS, BUT POPULATIONS ARE CHANGING.

SO WHAT YOU HAVE ARE THE MAJORITY OF RATS AND SIGHT UNSEEN.

THEY'RE SHY, LIKE THE BURROW UNDERGROUND AND STAY AWAY FROM PEOPLE.

TEDDY SEEING OMEGA RATS.

THAT'S THE BEHAVIOR WE SAW DURING THE PANDEMIC THAT CAUSED OLD POPULATIONS TO MOVE TO NEW PLACES.

WHEN THE PANDEMIC ENDED AND RESTAURANTS REOPENED, THEY MOVED, SOME OF THEM, THE OMEGA RATS MOVED BACK INTO THE RESTAURANT AREAS AND NOW YOU HAVE POPULATIONS IN BOTH PLACES.

SO YOU COULD HAVE AN EXPANSION OF RAT POPULATIONS.

THE BEHAVIOR CHANGES ARE BY A FEW, THE ONES BEING EJECTED FROM THE COLONY.

SO IF YOU'RE TELLING ME MORE AND MORE OF THE BEHAVIOR, THAT'S TELL MEGA POPULATIONS ARE INCREASING.

MICHAEL, NOBODY KNOWS URBAN RATS BETTER THAN YOU.

PREPARING FOR THIS I READ -- YOU'RE ALWAYS MENTIONED.

TELL US ABOUT THESE ANIMALS.

ARE THEY SMART?

ARE THEY DUMB?

DO THEY HAVE A VISIBLE EMOTIONS LIKE DOGS AND CATS?

DO THEY ALWAYS LIVE IN PACKS?

WHAT'S THEIR STORY?

MOST I LEARNED IS FROM THE RAT CZAR, BOBBY.

BUT I'VE LEARNED A LITTLE BIT ON MY OWN, AND THAT'S FROM MICROCHIPPING RODENTS AND CATCHING THEM AND STUDYING THEM AS INDIVIDUALS.

BOBBY TAUGHT ME SO MUCH ABOUT RATS AND RODENTOLOGY.

I RETURNED THE FAVE AND MICROCHIPPED ANIMALS AND GOT TO KNOW THEM ONE BY ONE, AND THEY ARE A LITTLE BIT LIKE PETS IN THAT THESE ANIMALS HAVE REMARKABLE PERSONALITIES.

THEY'RE NOT LIKE LABORATORY ANIMALS.

THEY'RE LIKE DOGS.

SOME ARE SHY.

SOME ARE OUTGOING.

THEY'RE JUST LIKE DIFFERENT BREEDS OF DOGS.

A CHIHUAHUA TO A LABRADOR TO A PIT BULL.

IT'S A FASCINATING EXPERIENCE AND IT TAUGHT ME TO APPRECIATE THE SALIENT NATURE OF RATS.

YOU PROBABLY READ ABOUT RATS DRIVING ROBOT CAR IN THE LABORATORY.

IMAGINE JUST HOW MUCH SMARTER WILD RATS ARE.

SO, TEDDY, FOR THE SAKE OF TIME, I'M INTERRUPTING YOU, SORRY, MICHAEL.

AS YOU KNOW, TEDDY, I THINK MOST NEW YORKERS KNOW THIS IS NOT A NEW PROBLEM TO NEW YORK.

IN FACT 'THE NEW YORK TIMES' I READ HAD AN ARTICLE IN THE MID 1860s LAMENTING HOW NEW YORK HAD BECOME THE RAT CAPITAL OF THE WORLD OF THE UNION, AT LEAST.

BUT MUCH MORE RECENTLY, RATS HAVE BEEN A CONSISTENT PROBLEM IN THOSE UNDERSERVED COMMUNITIES OF COLOR, MOSTLY IN NEW YORK CITY.

IT'S NEVER STOPPED BEING A PROBLEM THERE.

WHY HAVE OUR ELECTED LEADERS BEEN UNABLE TO DEAL WITH THE PROBLEMS THAT HAVE BEEN SO SERIOUS IN THOSE COMMUNITIES?

OR AM I WRONG?

HAVE THEY BEEN SUCCESSFUL AND WE DON'T KNOW ABOUT IT?

IT'S A GREAT QUESTION, GETS BACK TO MICHAEL'S CORE POINT OF RATS BEING SYMPTOMATIC OF LARGER SOCIAL PROBLEMS.

YOU CAN ASK THE SAME QUESTION ABOUT WHERE ELECTED LEADERS AREN'T TAKING CARE OF THOSE COMMUNITIES WRIT LARGE, AND GET TO WHY THE RAT PROBLEM IS THERE.

IT'S NOT A PROBLEM YOU SOLVE WITH POISONS OR ELIMINATION OR ANYTHING ELSE.

IT'S A SOECIAL PROBLEM.

BECAUSE THEY'RE BEING TAKEN CARE OF IN THE FIRST PLACE, YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE ISSUES WITH SOCIAL HYGIENE SYMPTOMS, ESPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO THINGS LIKE RODENTS.

REALLY STARTED WITH TAKING CARE OF THOSE COMMUNITIES IN THE FIRST PLACE AND DOING THAT WORK, AND THEN THOSE SORT OF SYMPTOMATIC ISSUES ARE GETTING SOLVED.

SO MICHAEL, BOTH OF YOU HAVE KIND OF TOUCHED ON THIS THROUGHOUT THE CONVERSATION, BUT AS I SAID IN THE INTRODUCTION, THE CITY COUNCIL IS NOW CONSIDERING FIVE PIECES OF LEGISLATION TO DEAL WITH THE RIGHT CRISIS.

WHAT SUGGESTIONS -- WHAT CONCRETE PROPOSALS WOULD YOU ADVISE A CITY COUNCIL TO CONSIDER THAT YOU THINK WOULD BE BETTER THAN OTHERS?

PREVENTION IS THE BEST CURE, AND BECAUSE OF THAT, I WOULD ALLOCATE FUNDS, NOT REACTIVELY BUT PROACTIVELY INTO TARGET AREAS TO PILOT DIFFERENT STUDIES WHERE WE CAN HAVE PEOPLE, INDIVIDUALS, WHO WILL BE RAT SENTINELS, IF YOU WILL.

THEY'LL GET TO THE CORE ISSUE, WHICH IS RUBBISH AND WASTE ON OUR STREETS.

AND THEY'LL BE COLLECTING WASTE, THEY'LL BE PICKING UP, FOR A WAGE, INSTEAD OF THROWING OUT MONEY, WHICH, AS BOBBY WOULD TELL YOU, THROWING STUFF AWAY, YOU'RE TRYING TO FIGHT PROBLEMS AFTER THEY'RE ALREADY SCONCED IN THE AREA.

SO WHY NOT DO SOMETHING PROACTIVE, TAKE MONEY, AND THAT REQUIRES PEOPLE, MAYBE ON A GRASSROOTS LEVEL WHO CAN MAYBE BE PAID WAGES.

MAYBE HOMELESS PEOPLE.

BUT YOU CAN ACTUALLY PAY PEOPLE TO -- YOU KNOW, THIS GARBAGE THAT'S BEEN SITTING OUT FROM 8:00 P.M. TILL 4:00 A.M. OR 5:00 A.M. WHEN IT'S PICKED UP, HOW ABOUT SOMEBODY PICK THAT UP AND PUT THAT IN AN ARE TANING SHED FOR A FEW HOURS?

I WOULD PAY TAX MONEY TO HAVE THAT ON MY BLOCK.

ALL THE PEOPLE AROUND THEM ARE GOING TO BENEFIT.

IF YOU BREAK THE BREEDING CYCLES, THEY'RE GOING TO DO LIKE THE PANDEMIC, THEY'RE GOING TO TURN ON EACH OTHER.

THEY'LL TAKE CARE OF THE PROBLEM FOR US IF WE CLEAN UP THE PLACE.

SO, TEDDY, YOU KNOW -- IN ABOUT 15, 20 SECONDS THAT WE HAVE LEFT.

YOU KNOW NEW YORK WELL, KNOW OUR HISTORY.

HOW OPTIMISTIC ARE YOU WE'LL DO THE RIGHT THING TO SOLVE THIS?

I WISH I COULD SAY I'M OPTIMIST, BUT I DON'T THINK THE RAT PROBLEM IS GOING AWAY ANY TOO MANY SOON.

WE'LL HAVE TO END THAT THERE.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

IT'S BEEN A PLEASURE TALKING TO.

YOU THANKS, RAPHAEL.

> AS WE JUST HEARD, THIS CITY IS EXPERIENCING A RAT PROBLEM THAT APPEARS TO BE GETTING WORSE.

TO HELP SOLVE THAT PROBLEM, SANDY NURSE, THE CHAIR OF THE CITY COUNCIL SANITATION COMMITTEE AND THREE OF HER COLLEAGUES RELEASED BILLS KNOWN AS THE RAT ACTION PLAN.

COUNCIL MEMBER NURSE JOINS NOW TO TALK ABOUT THE PROBLEM AND THE PLAN.

COUNSEL MEMBER, THANK YOU FOR JOINING US TODAY.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

FIRST OF ALL, COUNCIL MEMBER, WE JUST HEARD FROM AN URBAN EXPERT AND A 'NEW YORK TIMES' WRITER ABOUT WHAT THEY BELIEVE IS CAUSING THIS LATEST RAT PROBLEM IN THE CITY.

WHAT'S YOUR TAKE ON WHAT'S CAUSING IT?

SO, THE RODENT INFESTATION AND SIGHTINGS AND RODENT POPULATION I WOULD SAY BOOM IN NEW YORK IS CAUSED BY A NUMBER OF DIFFERENT THINGS.

CERTAINLY WE HAVE TRASH BAGS ON THE SIDEWALKS AT NIGHT FOR EXTENDED PERIODS OF TIME FILLED WITH FOOD, AND THAT REPRESENTS A FEAST FOR RATS AND RODENTS.

WE ALSO HAVE CONSTRUCTION CONSTANTLY HAPPENING THROUGHOUT NEW YORK CITY, AND WHEN YOU HAVE CONSTRUCTION FOUNDATIONS GET DISTURBED, RAT NESTS GET DISTURBED, AND NEW NESTING OPPORTUNITIES ARE OPENED UP FOR RODENTS TO ENTER INTO EXISTING BUILDING.

AND SO IT COMES FROM A LOT OF DIFFERENT ANGLES, AND OUR RAT ACTION PLAN IS TO KIND OF TO START TO GET AT SOME OF THAT, PARTICULARLY THROUGH COUNCIL MEMBER ERIC BOTCHER'S BILL, WHICH WOULD REQUIRE PRECONSTRUCTION RAT MITIGATION PLANS.

HE'S FROM CHELSEA, RIGHT?

YES.

SO THAT'S A PROBLEM THERE.

I WANT TO YOU BREAK IT DOWN IN A MOMENT, BUT BEFORE WE GET THERE, LET ME ASK YOU A COUPLE OF OTHER QUESTIONS.

YOU REPRESENT COUNCIL 37, WHICH INCLUDES BUSHWICK, EASTERN NEW YORK, BROWNSVILLE AND OTHER AREAS.

RAT INFESTATION HAS BEEN A PROBLEM IN PARTS OF YOUR DISTRICT AND IN UNDERSERVED COMMUNITIES OF COLOR AROUND THE CITY LONG BEFORE COVID, LONG BEFORE THIS PARTICULAR PROBLEM.

FIRST OF ALL, IS THIS ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL DISPARITIES -- [ INAUDIBLE ].

CERTAINLY YOU HAVE A COMMUNITY THAT'S UNDERSERVE IN THE TERM OF PUBLIC RESOURCES AND INVESTMENT IN INFRASTRUCTURE AND PUBLIC WORKS INFRASTRUCTURE, WHETHER IT'S THROUGH TRANSPORTATION, PUBLIC HOUSING THAT HAS BEEN UNDERSERVED.

WE'VE SEEN THE LACK OF RESOURCES HERE, AND THAT CAUSES COMPOUNDING PROBLEMS, AND RATS ARE SIMPLY AN ANOTHER SYMPTOM OF THAT.

SO BUSHWICK IN PARTICULAR IS A PLACE WHERE THE RAT POPULATION IS VERY, VERY LARGE.

THERE HAVE BEEN DIFFERENT ATTEMPTS TO GET AT THAT, SO, YOU KNOW, THROUGH RAT MITIGATION SERVICES SUCH AS AN ADDITIONAL PICKUP, OR MOSTLY COUNCIL MEMBER OR WHOEVER'S IN THIS POSITION AND ON THE OTHER SIDE IN THE 34th, WE OFTEN PAY OUT OF OUR DISCRETIONARY FUNDING, YOU KNOW, LOTS OF MONEY TO SUPPLEMENTAL CLEANING SERVICES TO REALLY KEEP LITTER AND TRASH OFF THE STREETS, WHICH IS, YOU KNOW, WHERE THEY GO TO EAT.

SO YEAH, WE HAVE AN INEQUALITY ISSUE HERE IN NEW YORK CITY, AND CERTAINLY AN EXPLOSION OF RATS IS A MAJOR SYMPTOM AND OUTCOME, UNFORTUNATELY.

I WAS THINKING AS I WAS PREPARING FOR MY INTERVIEW WITH YOU HOW, IN SO MANY OTHER NEIGHBORHOODS, THIS IS NOW A PROBLEM FOR OTHER NEIGHBORHOODS THAT USED TO SEE RATS ONLY IN THE SUBWAYS.

I'M THINKING, MAYBE THIS IS THE GOOD PART OF THIS, WHICH IS NOW PEOPLE WHO WEREN'T WORRIED ABOUT RATS IN WEALTHIER COMMUNITIES ARE WORRIED ABOUT IT, AND MAYBE THE SOLUTION NOW FOR COMMUNITIES THAT HAVE HAD THIS PROBLEM FOR A LONG TIME AND IT'S BEEN IGNORED, NOW THEY CAN TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS.

RIGHT.

WELL, IT'S CERTAINLY NOT GREAT THAT WHEN WEALTHY, WHITER, MORE AFFLUENT COMMUNITIES SEE AN ISSUE IS WHEN IT STARTS TO GET ADDRESSED.

OUR COMMUNITIES DESERVE THESE RESOURCES.

A BIG PART OF THIS IS ALSO GENTRIFICATION, SO YOU HAVE BUILDINGS THAT ARE PURPOSELY BEING ALLOWED TO GO INTO DISARRAY.

YOU HAVE LANDLORDS WHO ARE NOT TAKING CARE OF THEIR BUILDINGS FOR A NUMBER OF REASONS.

EITHER THEY WANT THEIR TENANTS OUT OR SIMPLY DON'T HAVE TO MONEY TO MAINTAIN THEIR BUILDINGS.

SO THERE'S A LOT OF OPENINGS.

WHEN YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT INFESTATIONS, TALKING ABOUT INSIDE HOMES, THAT IS A PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS BE THE DEPARTMENT OF HYGIENE IS SUPPOSED TO BE TREATING THROUGH ENSPECTIONS, ABATEMENT.

IT REQUIRES ATTENTION.

YOU SHOULD AND HAVING SOMEONE COMING EVERY WEEK.

OFTEN TIME WHEN IT'S A PRIVATE BUILDING THAT REQUIRES THE LANDLORD TO PAY FOR IT OUT OF POCKET, IF IT'S PUBLIC HOUSING IT REQUIRES TO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH TO GET INVOLVED.

THIS REQUIRES A LOT OF RESOURCES AND ATTENTION, AND IT CERTAINLY IS, YOU KNOW, I THINK ABHORRENT THAT ONLY WHEN COMMUNITIES THAT HAVE MORE MONEY ARE IMPACTED THAT THE CITY STARTS TO TAKE ACTION.

WE HAVE ABOUT THREE MINUTES LEFT.

I WANT YOU, TO THE DEGREE YOU CAN, BREAK DOWN THE FIVE PIECES OF LEGISLATION THAT MAKE UP THE RAT ACTION PLAN YOU HAVE INTRODUCED TO THE CITY COUNCIL.

REALLY, THIS IS AT ESTABLISHING A FORMAL RAT MITIGATION PROGRAM, SO ESTABLISHING ZONES IN THE CITY THAT NEED EXTRAORDINARY RESOURCES TO ADDRESS THE RODENT PROBLEM, AND THEN WE'RE GOING TO REQUIRE THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HYGIENE ON WHAT ARE THE TACTICS, THE STRATEGIES, WHAT ARE THEY SPENDING, HOW ARE THEY SPENDING?

THE OTHER PIECES REQUIRING RODENT PROOF BINS IN THESE AREAS, SO MAKING SURE PEOPLE ARE USING THE RIGHT TYPE OF CON CONTAINER AT NIGHT.

PRECONSTRUCTION RAT MITIGATION PLAN THAT WOULD BE REQUIRED I THINK WILL GO A LONG WAY, PARTICULARLY IN NEIGHBORHOODS EXPERIENCING LOTS OF RECONSTRUCTION AND REDEVELOPMENT.

AND THE ADDITIONAL PIECES AROUND THE TIMES OF CERTAIN TYPES OF TRASH TO GO OUT.

WE REALLY RIGHT NOW HAVE A SITUATION WHERE YOU PUT YOUR BAGS OUT AT NIGHT AT, WHAT, 4:00, 5:00 IN THE EVENING AND THEY SIT THERE UNTIL 5:00 IN THE MORNING WHEN THE DEPARTMENT OF SANITATION STARTS ITS ROUTES.

THAT IS AN EXTENSIVE PERIOD OF TIME FOR TRASH TO BE OUT AND TRASH BAGS FILLED WITH FOOD TO BE OUT ON THE SIDEWALK.

THERE ARE SO MANY SOLUTIONS THAT NEED TO HAPPEN AT THE SAME TIME.

THIS RAT ACTION PLAN IS TO START TO GET THE RESOURCES, THE TRANSPARENCY, AND ACCOUNTABILITY GOING SO WE CAN PROVIDE RELIEF FOR OUR COMMUNITIES.

SO, WHAT KIND OF SUPPORT IS THE PLAN GETTING IN THE CITY COUNCIL?

IS IT LIKELY TO PASS, DO YOU THINK?

SO, WE HAVE HAD A HEARING ABOUT THIS.

THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH WAS SUPPORTIVE OF MOST OF THE BILLS.

THERE'S ONE BILL THAT NEEDS TO CONTINUE TO BE HEARD.

RIGHT NOW THEY ARE LAID OVER IN COMMITTEE.

WE ARE HOPING THAT THE SPEAKER WILL BRING THESE BILLS TO A VOTE SOMETIME THIS YEAR, BECAUSE, AS WE ALL KNOW, RATS AND TRASH IS A BIG CONCERN FOR NEW YORKERS.

IT'S A PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS.

WE WANT TO SEE THE RESOURCES GET TO THE GROUND THIS YEAR AND CERTAINLY ALL THROUGH NEXT YEAR, SO WE'RE HOPING THESE BILLS WELCOME BACK BROUGHT TO A VOTE.

ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC IT WILL PASS AND THEY WILL BE IMPLEMENTED?

WELL, I'M HOPEFUL.

THIS IS A VERY SERIOUS ISSUE.

WE'RE ALL COMPLAINING ABOUT RATS.

WE'RE SEEING MORE RATS THAN EVER.

THEY'RE ALL OVER THE SUBWAYS, WHICH WE KNOW IS NORMALIZED BUT HAVING THEM IN PEOPLE'S HOMES AND NOT BEING ABLE TO WALK ON THE SIDEWALK AT NIGHT BECAUSE RODENTS ARE JUMPING AND YOU'RE JUMPING -- THIS IS NOT A CITY WE WANT.

WE WANT A CITY THAT'S CLEAN, WHERE PEOPLE FEEL SAFE WALKING AT NIGHT WITHOUT RATS BITING YOUR ANKLES.

WE'RE HOPING THAT THIS IS SOMETHING THE CITY COUNCIL CAN TAKE ON AND PASS AND SEE AS A PRACTICAL SOLUTION TO ADDRESSING THE QUALITY OF LIFE FOR NEW YORKERS.

OKAY, CITY COUNCIL MEMBER, WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO END IT THERE.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US TODAY AND THANK YOU FOR THE WORK YOU HAVE BEEN DOING ON THIS AND OTHER ISSUES FOR NEW YORKERS.

THANKS FOR COVERING THIS.

> 'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

AND BY --

©2022 WNET. All Rights Reserved. 825 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10019

WNET is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Tax ID: 26-2810489