New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Rat infestation rises in New York City post-Sandy



Even though it has been four months since Hurricane Sandy hit, effects of the storm are still causing headaches for the city — this time with the help of some furry friends.

“The number of calls for rat control has gone up significantly since Sandy,” said Timothy Wong, technical director of M&M Environmental, a pest control company in New York City. “Since the storm, we have been getting 50-75 inquiries per day for rodent control.”

These numbers are a 20 to 30 percent increase since before the storm.

The office of Councilwoman Jessica Lappin collected data of the increased rodent complaint calls to the New York City Department of Health, which they included in a press release last week.

While the overall number of violations for rodents issued after Sandy has decreased from 2,750 to 1,996, many waterfront neighborhoods have seen significant increases in the amount of rodents. Since Oct. 29, there have been 274 rodent complaint calls from Lower Manhattan neighborhoods. In the same time frame last year there were only 191 calls.

Lower Manhattan zip codes 10038 and 10007 have been particularly troubled with infestations, with a 129 percent increase in the amount of rodent complaints.

While many rats may have drowned in underwater sewers and subway tunnels, others have come farther inland. Their adaptability has allowed them to survive and move into new environments and cause problems for more people. After the wake of the storm, rats were able to feast on all the extra garbage strewn in the streets.

Wong explained that this increase has occurred because of a variety of factors, such as empty buildings being fixed after the storm and storm debris. Another factor is the increase in construction due to storm repairs, which causes disruption of the earth and creates extra garbage that workers sometimes leave that rats feast on.

At NYU, rodent problems have mostly affected buildings around Washington Square Park, which are farther south and more impacted by the effects of the storm. The complaints are mostly about mice.

“We also saw a slight uptick in requests for rodent exterminations in Carlyle Court and Third Avenue North [residence halls] in early January 2013,” said Beth Morningstar, assistant vice president of the Division of Operations.

Lappin is calling for a city-wide crackdown on this rodent problem.

“This is a serious public health threat, and the city should put more resources into ending the rat race,” she said in the press release.

Lappin wants the city to hire more pest control aides for a six-month rat control program, free of charge to property owners. If the city adopts her plan, Lappin hopes to solve the issue immediately, estimating a $500,000 cost.

“We are still working out details of the program, whether it is something the Department of Health will agree to or whether we will include in city budget,” said Michelle Feldman, the New York City Council press secretary.

Like the rest of the city, the NYU Client Services Center is also fighting the problem.

“NYU uses an integrated pest management control system, which includes aggressive garbage control, sealing buildings and using rat traps and rat baits that use poison,” Morningstar said.

While the city and other pest control companies can help solve the problem, by disposing of trash responsibly and not leaving food lying around, anyone can help reduce the rodent problem.

Jacqueline Hsia is a staff writer. Email her at [email protected].

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