NYC mayor vows to combat 'swarms of rats' running amok during the pandemic

Maya Rajamani
April 30, 2020 - 4:18 pm

    NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday vowed not to let New York City’s rat problems get “out of hand” in the midst of a pandemic that has sidelined pest control workers. 

    During the mayor’s daily briefing on Thursday, 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa said she’d seen and reported on chronic rat infestations throughout the city, including “a swarm of rats coming out of the sewer and crawling on garbage bags left on the street on Sixth Avenue" in Manhattan, near 56th Street.

    Pest control teams have not been responding to swarms of the sort due to social distancing regulations, according to 311 and the city’s health department. 

    “Why isn’t pest control responding, and are you concerned about a rat problem getting out of control here?” Papa asked. 

    The city, de Blasio responded, has had to change the “normal way (it) did business” during the coronavirus pandemic. 

    “Remember that for weeks in March, going into April, it looked like this was going to become an even deeper health care crisis, and everything was about making sure the disease didn’t spread, making sure we were really forcefully keeping people inside to the maximum extent possible,” de Blasio said. “And we had to be smart about our public employees because everyone that could be kept in and could socially distance, we had to do that.” 

    "But now we have a situation that’s improving — we’ve got still a long way to go — but we have a situation that’s improving. So we cannot let that stutation with the rats you described get out of hand, and we will address it head on," he added. “As New Yorkers, unfortunately, we know way too much about rats, and we are certainly not going to ever let it get to be a worse situation. We’re going to fight it back.”

    Following the daily briefing, the Mayor's office said it would send staff to inspect the Sixth Avenue location.

    “We’ll also resume exterior-only inspections in areas with a high number of complaints and history of rat activity,” the office said in a statement. “311 operators will have this information to relay to New Yorkers beginning (Friday, May 1).”

    “Inspectors will operate with respect to social distancing,” the statement added. “They’ll be dispatched from home to work alone at staggered times and will receive full PPE.”

    At his briefing on Friday, de Blasio thanked Papa for raising the rat issue.

    “You have a really good batting average lately, when you raise things, that action happens, so I thank you," he said. "But I want the rats to know they are not safe. We’re coming for them.”