By John Salak –
No apologies. Rats are disgusting. Their faces, tails and bodies give everyone the heebie-jeebies, including New York City Mayor Eric Adams. He hates rats so much that 10 months into his first year in office, he made “fighting rats” one of his three pillars for making the Big Apple a “livable city.” For those who keep track, his honor also included fighting crime and inequality.
The last two pillars may be easier to achieve than ridding the city of these pointed-nosed rodents. After all, there are an estimated two million rats in New York City, one for every four people—and they are notable and a nuisance. NYC rat complaints, for example, rose almost 50 percent to 39,000 in 2022.
These buggers aren’t only thriving; they are a significant health hazard because they carry lice, fleas, mites and bacteria—like deadly bacteria such as typhus, spotted fever and yes, the bubonic plague, which in the 14th Century alone wiped out a third of Europe.
In December, the mayor’s rat-ridding obsession led him to create an office for the “director of rodent mitigation,” which was trimmed down by the Fourth Estate to “Rat Tsar.” The requirements for being the city’s chief rat whacker? The candidate should be highly motivated and bloodthirsty and have healthy dollops of stamina and stagecraft. If that’s not enough, the chosen candidate would require “the drive, determination and killer instinct needed to fight the real enemy – New York City’s relentless rat population?”
Okay, so the mayor isn’t messing around. Unfortunately, neither are the rats, and they may be aiming directly at Adams. He has been cited twice since December by city officials for rat infestations at his townhouse in Brooklyn. He successfully had the first fine dismissed after a hearing officer determined that the mayor was working to mitigate the problems at his house and on his Brooklyn block.
Of course, that didn’t prevent a second citation. “A rat burrow observed along the edge of the fenceline at front right,” the inspector wrote. “Fresh rat droppings were observed in front of the garbage bins in the yard at front right.”
Adams isn’t having it and intends to fight the second citation as well, noting he has video evidence his rats are under control. “I spent $7,000 to do rat mitigation,” he said. “You have to be scared of rats to spend $7,000.”
The bigger question facing Gotham City’s mayor isn’t what he’s afraid of but whether New York’s rats are afraid of Adams or his Rat Tsar. The query remains unanswered.
At least the mayor can take heart in knowing that New York isn’t the rattiest city in the country. That dubious distinction goes to Chicago, which has held the title since 2015.