View Full Version : Boom Time for Rats

August 7th, 2003, 01:27 AM
August 7, 2003

A Detested Emblem of Decay Is Scurrying Back. Ah, Rats!


New York rats? A suggestion: Ninja cats.

Even for New York City, it was a bizarre specter: a firehouse closed because it had been taken over by rats.

They had invaded the firefighters' kitchen and lounge and the chief's office, and seemed only to grow in number and boldness, despite copious use of rat poison. On Tuesday, the city temporarily relocated the firefighters and ordered that the house be gutted and rebuilt.

But many residents, exterminators and politicians believe that the infested firehouse in Jamaica, Queens, is only part of a much larger citywide rat problem.

The number of rat complaints received by the city has sharply increased lately. And city officials and exterminators say a combination of circumstances — from an underfinanced government abatement program to reduced recycling pickups to heavy rainfall — seem to have created a boom time for rats in the city.

If, as these people say, the New York rat problem has returned, city health officials say it is as much an image problem as an infestation problem. That scurrying symbol of urban decay, akin to the mugger, the squeegee man or curbside piles of trash, is one the city and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg does surely not need.

"The rat infestation is very significant, and Mayor Bloomberg is not taking it as serious as he should be," said Councilwoman Christine Quinn, a Democrat who represents part of Lower Manhattan and the chairwoman of the City Council's Health Committee.

Councilwoman Quinn said that Mr. Bloomberg "inherited the problem" from Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. "But he still has to address it aggressively," she said.

She added: "The picture of rats taking over a firehouse on the national-international news takes you right back to 1970's. Once one tourist in Iowa sees it, you have a thousand of them canceling their plane tickets to New York."

The city has noted a spike in rat infestation complaints lately, with almost 21,000 for the fiscal year 2003, compared with about 16,000 for fiscal year 2002. "Complaints have gone up, but we look at that as a positive thing, because more people know how to contact us now," said James H. Gibson, assistant commissioner for Veterinary and Pest Control Services of the city's Department of Health.

But Mr. Gibson said that, except for certain blighted sections of the city, the rat problem in New York had improved.

"It's a difficult thing to assess," he said. "Certain communities in some rare cases have gotten worse, but over all it's gotten better. There are persistent problems in poorer neighborhoods, where more crumbling housing infrastructure provides harborage for rodents. Landlords there often do not properly maintain their properties or provide things like trash cans with covers."

Mr. Gibson said the number of inspections and exterminations conducted by the department had increased in recent years.

City spending on rodent control has remained roughly the same over the past three years, he said. For the fiscal year 2003, it was about $13 million.

"We could use more resources and personnel," he said. "We have a city of 8.1 million people and roughly 30 rodent inspectors. If we had more inspectors, we could be more aggressive."

Yesterday, the city's fire commissioner, Nicholas Scoppetta, played down claims from the firefighters' union that many firehouses are similarly infested.

"Rats are a fact of life in New York City," he said.

Yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg was asked by reporters about the firehouse rat problem after touring the Kaufman Astoria Studio in Queens with Whoopi Goldberg, the star and executive producer of a new sitcom there. Ms. Goldberg piped up. "You should get some cats," she said.

"I think these are New York rats," the mayor responded."

Ms. Goldberg considered that and said, "You need those Ninja cats."

Gil Bloom, who owns Standard Exterminating in Astoria, said the city's rat population had "exploded" over the past couple of years because of three things. "Food, water and shelter," he said yesterday on 21st Street in Queens.

He pointed to a pile of trash bags on the sidewalk next to some large puddles, then to his client's front yard, where rats had nested. "This is all the rats need," Mr. Bloom said.

"With that," he said, "two rats today can produce two to three hundred in one year."

His son, Josh Bloom, 19, put rat poison pellets the size of golf balls in a small plastic trap in the yard.

"The city only makes it a priority when it becomes a problem, and that's too late," said Gil Bloom, president of the New York State Pest Management Association. "You have to be preventative, not reactive."

The need for constant vigilance is apparent at the Community Food Resource Center on West 116th Street, a soup kitchen in Harlem next to a vacant lot. It has been waging a war with the rats that somehow keep finding their way into the building.

The center has plugged holes in the building, repaved the crumbling sidewalk and increased its extermination budget to $4,000 a year, said Hiram Bonner, program director for the group's Community Kitchen program.

"It's a battle we're constantly fighting," he said yesterday as he walked through the trash-strewn lot. "You can see them scurrying around here in the evening. They burrow under the sidewalk and pop up in the tree pits and scare the heck out of our clients."

Ron West, who owns the 4rdms Pest Control Systems in Harlem, said that the city could do more to fight rat infestation in vacant lots and buildings.

"Five years ago, the city was doing a lot of baiting, but now you really have to scream loud if you want them to help out," he said. "The wealthier neighborhoods have more political clout. But here, someone's got to get a rat bite and then call the news and show pictures. I know the city has fiscal problems, but the rats have been exploding all over the place."

Mr. Gibson said that the Health Department sends inspectors to identify infested areas after complaints from the public. If the landlord fails to clear the building of rats, he is fined and often ordered to reimburse the city for doing it.

Mr. Gibson said the city's Health Department had been conducting a strict rodent abatement pilot program in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, which will be used as a model for programs to be conducted in areas including Chinatown, East Harlem, the South Bronx and Manhattan Valley, near the northwestern corner of Central Park.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

August 7th, 2003, 05:12 AM
Ay Chihuahua!

August 7th, 2003, 08:09 AM

If I ever have a band again, it's so going to be named Ninja Cat and the New York Rats.

August 7th, 2003, 01:53 PM
Falconry on every rooftop, a feline dojo in every basement. *Time to take the city back! * ;)

August 8th, 2003, 07:50 AM
Here's a map of the NYC rats:


August 15th, 2003, 04:24 AM
August 15, 2003

The Word on the Street? For New York's Rats, It's 'Goodbye'


Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg declared war yesterday on the city's rat population, saying that the rodents had invaded homes and threatened public health for too long before announcing an expansion of the city's efforts to exterminate them.

"Our administration has zero tolerance for rats," he said. "And I've got one message today, `City to rats: Drop Dead.' "

Mr. Bloomberg said that officials would increase the number of inspections and exterminations of rats citywide by 10,000, to more than 150,000, in the next year, and expand a pilot program that had cleaned up rat-infested areas in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The program would cover a larger swathe of Bushwick and parts of East Harlem and the south Bronx.

The mayor and his aides said the city would be increasing its spending on rat control programs by about $1 million, to roughly $13 million. About $300,000 of that would pay for 8,000 heavy-duty, rat-proof trash containers for the targeted areas.

The mayor's attack on rats was the highlight of a campaign-style swing through much of Brooklyn that was cut short yesterday afternoon by the major power outage. Beginning at 9 a.m., when Mr. Bloomberg convened a staff meeting at the New Utrecht branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, the mayor and his entourage raced to a series of public appearances. He stopped first at the Coney Island Wastewater Treatment Plant, where a large fire had knocked out one of the odor-control units last week. The mayor sniffed the air, which still smelled of soot, and declared that no one should have to put up with such an odor.

Afterward, Mr. Bloomberg dropped by the Bay Ridge Center for Older Adults, a center for the elderly.

Then it was off to a noon lunch with local business owners, where the mayor painted a positive outlook.

But there was one group that the mayor did not try to win over yesterday. In introducing his rat initiative to children at a ball field, he said, "Rats are repulsive. You know what repulsive means? Not nice."

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

January 7th, 2004, 03:57 PM
from ny1 news: http://www.ny1.com/

Rat Attack: Team Of Volunteers Take On City's Rats

JANUARY 06TH, 2004

When rats are the problem, who you gonna call? NY1 Bronx reporter Dean Meminger says a new group is promising to give the city a hand in the ongoing battle against a centuries-old pest.

Watch out rats, here comes the Rat Attack Team: a group of extermination companies volunteering their time to get rid of the rodents. Residents and workers at the Carroll Gardens apartments say the team will have its hands full.

“Last summer we actually had to call the 43rd precinct because we were locked in. The rats were running right up our steps,” said Nilda Gibson of Rainbow Kiddie Academy in the Bronx. ”We could not get out. We had to lock the windows. There were about fifty rats out here that day. The police refused to get out of their car. They said they were not getting out.”

In neighboring Story Playground residents say rats run wild. The Parks Department did put down poison back in September, but that wasn't enough to get rid of the rodents.

Now the group Hispanics Across America has gotten involved. The group's president Fernando Mateo who usually deals with livery cab issues says residents contacted him to help with the rat problem.

“According to the National Pest Control, a few years ago, one rat per person lived in the city,” said Mateo. “We estimate today that there are two rats per person living amongst us. Therefore the numbers we calculate are well over 16 million rats in the city.”

The city's Health Department says it welcomes any help it can get.

Mateo says the Rat Attack Team will target areas in the Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.

The Rat Attack Team says it's not just going to come out here and put down poison to kill the rats. The team says it's first going to feed the rats with little bacon and cheese bits – the same sort of treats you might feed your dog.

“We will be using a non-target bait at first,” said Jose Sonera of All Better Pest Control. “Actually, we’re going to feed them pretty good. This is a non-target bait which means we are going to monitor the activity to see how severe it is.”

After the rats eat the food, the next course they get will be poison.

The team says it'll be back in the area weekly to check on the extermination process.

--Dean Meminger

Copyright © 2003 NY1 News. All rights reserved.

January 7th, 2004, 04:26 PM
Just so long as it is bacon flavored poison, I see no problem with it... ;)

Maybe they should actually catch and tag some of these suckers so they can see where they are nesting up and solve it that way.....

Oh, as a side note, I caught the 6th mouse in my apartment in the past 6 weeks or so. They are BAAAAAAACK. (Hoboken)

January 7th, 2004, 04:34 PM
We never really had a problem with mice or rats, except at one point last year when there were four in a week (the cat liked it). But nothing really before or since..

TLOZ Link5
January 7th, 2004, 05:22 PM
I've had one or two bad experiences with roaches. Very likely they must have eaten all the rats, because we've had no rodent problems for 15 years.

January 8th, 2004, 05:20 PM

February 20th, 2004, 04:09 PM
February 22, 2004

Rat Tales


A short time after the World Trade Center came down, I went rat-trapping in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn with a couple of scientists from the New York City health department. The outing turned out to be historic: the city was trapping live rats for the first time in several decades. Dan Markowski, a Tennessee-born vector control officer, wore a health department windbreaker, and a ponytail stuck out from underneath his cowboy hat. Anne Li, an epidemiologist, was also dressed in a health department windbreaker and jeans. Born in Brooklyn, Li is tall, with a dry sense of humor, and has a complete nonaversion to rats, though most of her work with them occurs in a lab. She had never trapped a Rattus norvegicus on the streets.

Li had a lot of complimentary things to say about rats, like: "I think rats are so underappreciated." At another point, she turned to me and said, "Rats are the smartest creatures." We were all picked up by Isaac Ruiz, a city exterminator who lives in the Bronx. Ruiz, who was wearing a wool shirt and sunglasses, told me that, unlike Markowski and Li, he was not especially eager to see rats. He lays the poison but doesn't linger. "I don't like to be around them," he said. The city was trapping rats for two reasons. First, the health department wanted an indication of how well its rodent-control measures were working; at that time, Bushwick was the site of a pilot control program, which was expanded citywide last fall. The program uses a little 21st-century technology (more rigorous mapping of rat problem areas, for example, sometimes using mapping software) and a lot of traditional rat-proofing techniques: plugging rat holes, inspecting for landlord sanitation lapses and 8,000 new-and-improved rodent-resistant garbage cans. The other reason for trapping rats came out of the heightened fear that gripped the city after the World Trade Center attacks. Concerns about biological terrorism led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reach out to the New York health department to help study rat populations in preparation for a potential release of plague bacteria. The C.D.C. wanted to get an idea of the density of the rat population and, more important, how many and what kind of fleas they were host to — fleas, especially Oriental rat fleas, being the main conduit of disease. If there is a big flea population and there is an outbreak of plague, the last thing you want to do is start killing rats. Fleas jump off the dead rats' bodies and, in the absence of warmblooded rat hosts, could leap to humans. Thus Markowski and Li were out in Bushwick, rat-trapping to better prepare for the possibility of New York City being host to the Black Death. Despite a recent influx of artists and young loft-seekers, Bushwick is one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city, and is still feeling the effects of the night it was looted during the blackout of 1977. In meetings back at the health department, the rat-trapping team debated releasing the rats after catching them. On the one hand, they didn't want to tamper with the rat population for the sake of the experiment. On the other hand, they didn't think the people of Bushwick would appreciate seeing the health department releasing rats into the community. The decision was made: check the rats for parasites, draw blood to check for disease and then kill the rats.

Trapping the rats turned out to be fairly easy. We went to an abandoned, fenced-in lot beneath an elevated train line above Grove Street. The fence had been put up by a local community group, Make the Road by Walking, which once protested a rat infestation in their neighborhood by bringing Rudolph Giuliani, then the mayor, a dead rat on a bed of lettuce. (Make the Road by Walking transformed the lot into a playground last year.) We laid out some rectangular, steel rattraps, made by Tomahawk, a Wisconsin company that is a favorite of scientific rat-trappers. We put peanut butter on the bait trays. "Just a little dab'll do you," Markowski said, as we looked around for appropriate places. Laying down about a half-dozen cagelike traps, we locked up the lot, went for bagels at a Russian bakery in Greenpoint that Ruiz knew about and returned the next morning, our traps filled with skittering, gray-blurred Rattus norvegicus. One had pulled a garbage bag off the street and into the cage, shredded the bag and made a makeshift nest; the others darted from corner to corner, trapped rats. Ruiz was half-repulsed, half-pleased, for he seemed to have caught the largest one: close to two pounds and more than a foot long, not including the tail — the size of a large California-style burrito. "I put the cage next to the biggest hole," he told me. The rats in their cages were put in large black plastic trash bags and then placed in the back of the van. We drove off to a shack in an abandoned lot that Markowski had previously scouted for the rat bloodletting. Once at the lot, Ruiz brought the rats out of the van. He then went back to the van and waited alongside it. He didn't want to watch Markowski draw rat blood. Li, on the other hand, was eager to observe; she said she hoped to learn how to draw rat blood in the field. On the floor of the abandoned shed, they cleared away what appeared to be the debris of a drug addict and took out several clean syringes, some blood containers, cotton swabs and a bottle of halothane, an anesthetic. The wind was blowing hard, slamming a door on the shed. The scene felt somehow illicit. As we prepared to look closely at the rats, Markowski cautioned me not to make too much of them; he seemed to be saying that I shouldn't get caught up in rat lore and rat mystique — the images of rats as big as cats, rats that control the city's underworld. They were only rats, he explained to me, easily sedated, easily controlled, good scientific subjects, even in the wild. As he spoke, he opened the garbage bag covering one of the cages. Li treated two cotton balls with halothane. She dropped the cotton balls into the garbage bag and twisted it shut tight. This was an attempt to put the rat to sleep. In a few minutes Markowski looked into the garbage bag at the rat. He shook his head as he closed the bag. Markowski looked a little incredulous. "He's livelier than he was before," Markowski said. They increased the dosage of tranquilizer, putting in three treated cotton swabs this time. The wind was picking up. They waited and looked in the bag again. The rat was still alert. "That rat's one tough bastard," Markowski said. Markowski increased the dosage again. Finally, the rat looked unconscious, its tail limp, though when Markowski took it out of the cage he quickly discovered that it was still awake. He held the rat down on the ground with his hands and placed a halothane-treated swab directly over the rat's nose, holding the cotton with tweezers. The rat was going from groggy to woozy to sleepy to asleep, and as this happened, I was able to see that the rat was a large female, measuring, as we later determined, about 11 inches long, not including the tail, which was close to another 10 inches and looked to me like something belonging to an armadillo. At last the rat seemed at peace. Markowski held the rat down on the ground and plunged the needle into its chest, aiming for the rat's heart. He drew out the rat blood and bottled it; the blood was a deep, rich mammalian red. I looked away, over at Ruiz, who was still standing next to the van. Markowski put the rat in a freezer bag, with another dose of halothane. The halothane would kill the rat: it slipped from rat sleep to rat death.

Rat-control programs are like diets in that cities are always trying a new one. In the city, rats and men live in conflict, one side scurrying from the other or destroying the other's habitat — an unending and brutish war. Rat stories are war stories, and they are told in conversation and on the news, in dispatches from the front that is all around us, though mostly underneath. The stories considered the most newsworthy in New York usually involve seemingly huge rat infestations and surface with regularity, like last summer's story of the firemen forced to move from a rat-infested firehouse in Queens. There are, of course, rats throughout New York at any given time, but when a large, local infestation is noted, it leads to the perception that rats are gaining ground against humans. When this happens, certain predictable patterns of behavior occur on the human side. First, the city moves to a higher state of rat alert, and as a result New Yorkers begin to see rats where they never noticed them before. Then, whoever is mayor at the time makes numerous statements that seek to ensure the public that "this ugly condition," to use the phrase of Mayor William O'Dwyer in 1950, will be taken care of. "Something should be done," O'Dwyer said in a statement that was followed by the appointment of a citywide rat specialist. In 1997, during a rat alert, the city formed the Interagency Rodent Extermination Task Force. This rat offensive was typical in that the city trapped and poisoned rats until the rat population was reduced, but of course not eradicated. The mother of all New York City rat battles took place on Rikers Island, beginning around 1915 and lasting well into the 1930's. Rikers Island sits in the East River at the opening of Bowery Bay. Once it was small and bucolic and green, an 87-acre patch of land owned since 1664 by a family of early Dutch settlers named Rycken. The city bought the island in 1884 and used it as a dump for old metal and cinders. It was one of the first designated dumps in New York. Rikers Island worked as an antidote to the city's garbage problem until people began to complain about Rikers Island itself. Very soon, it had grown into a 415-acre island — a mass of garbage on and surrounding the original island, which in addition to being a dump was now also home to a prison farm. "Such a mass of putrescent matter was perhaps never before accumulated in one spot in so short a time," Harper's Weekly wrote in 1894. One complaint about Rikers Island was rats. Rats from all over the city came to Rikers Island, arriving on the fleets of garbage scows. Within the island was a huge lake of stagnant water, and the rats lived along the shore, feeding on garbage, drinking in the refuse-infused lake; in its putrid isolation, Rikers Island was a rat utopia. An official with the Department of Corrections at the time estimated that there were a million rats. The rats ate from the prison's vegetable garden. The rats ate the pigs on the prison farm. The rats ate a dog that was supposed to kill the rats. The Corrections Department baited and trapped, but as is often the case in particularly large infestations encouraged by particularly large amounts of potential rat food, the rats bred faster than they could be killed. There was a suggestion that the city bring thousands of snakes to the island so that the snakes could kill the rats, then a suggestion that the rats be killed with rat-destroying bacteria. Neither of those suggestions was acted upon. Then, in 1930, there were reports of rats swimming from Rikers Island to Roslyn, a high-toned summer community on Long Island. That fall, according to newspapers, the Sanitation Department used World War I-era poison gas to kill some of the rats. The next year, a Manhattan dentist named Harry Unger proposed leading a hunting party of a dozen rifle-armed men. Unger and his posse were poised to invade the island until the city called them off, fearing the hunters might shoot the prison guards or one another.

At last, in the spring of 1933, two exterminators — the Billig Brothers, Irving and Hugo — had some success, when, after supervising the placement of 25,000 baits around the island, they carried off 2,000 rat carcasses on the first day. They estimated three million rats were living on Rikers Island. They estimated that they would be able to kill 25,000 rats, and they saw those rats killed as an investment toward rats that would not need to be killed in the future. (It is not known how many rats they actually killed.) "Remember," Irving said, "each female rat can have four litters a year. Every litter contains from 5 to 21 rats. These young rats will have families of their own in four months, and their children will be having other children in four more months. Now, just figure how many rats we have killed by killing 25,000." The Billigs were successful, in that they reduced the population significantly, though modern studies indicate that Irving Billig probably underestimated the rat's reproductive capacity.

Rats live in the world where man lives. As the grizzly bear indicates wilderness, so Rattus norvegicus indicates inhabitedness, or at least the opposite of wildness, which is garbage and trash and homes and apartments and man. The not-so-epic-seeming story of rats is close to one version of the epic story of man: when they arrive as immigrants to a newfound land, rats proceed to push out creatures that preceded them, to multiply to such an extent as to stretch resources to the limit, to consume their way toward famine. At that point, they decline. Rats live in man's universe, surviving on the effluvia of human society; they eat our garbage. Rats command a perverse celebrity status — nature's mobsters — because of their habits and because of their disease-carrying ability. And yet, despite all this, rats are ignored or destroyed but rarely studied in their natural habitat; disparaged but not often described. The precedent for trapping live rats in New York City came from the work of David Davis, the little-known city rat scholar, who was the first naturalist to apply to an alley rat the same kind of up-close nature research applied to, for instance, the threatened marbled murrelet in its habitat on the Northwest coastal forest. Davis began studying rats during World War II. The U.S. government was concerned that the Germans might use rats to spread disease through Europe, the way the U.S. government is concerned about Al Qaeda today. After the war, with Europe's infrastructure in ruins, the U.S. was concerned about rats ruining food supplies and spreading disease.

The Rodent Ecology project was founded in Baltimore at Johns Hopkins University; the scientists there were working at the dawn of ecology, studying the relationship of an organism to its environment and to its fellow organisms and doing so with an organism that, frankly, no one wanted to have any kind of relationship with. They went into neighborhoods that didn't see a lot of scientists — beat-up, rundown, near-the-waterfront neighborhoods. It was a new frontier for wildlife biologists. As P. Quentin Tomich, a biologist who worked with Davis as a graduate student and subsequently went off to study plague in rodents in Hawaii, told me, "No one had thought of the urban slums as a habitat." Davis trapped rats, marked them, released them, trapped them again, and his papers opened a floodgate of myth-busting and groundbreaking rat information. Davis showed that rats, commonly thought to be wanderers, in fact live in very small areas, in colonies; that rats generally stay within 65 feet of their nests; that rats, when released far from their nest, will nonetheless wander for miles; that male rats tend to go farther away from their nests than female rats; that one way rats may protect themselves is by becoming completely familiar with their home territory, their city alley or block; that rats are likely to cross alleys but not roads; that rats use regular runways or paths to feed, taking the same paths night after night, rarely diverging, rarely straying ("For example, a rat may live under the steps, run along the fence to the alley and there feed on garbage," Davis wrote); that rats in the city are often bigger than rats in the country; and that the social rankings of the rat colony are of great significance. In "Characteristics of the Global Rat Populations," an article published in The American Journal of Health in 1951, Davis wrote: "As the population increases relative to its food supply, the higher ranking members still get adequate food, but the low members begin to starve. Low-ranking females have poor reproductive success, and progeny from low-ranking females have little chance to grow normally." Throughout the 50's, Davis was America's rodent-control guru. He traveled with America's rat populations. He consulted with cities on their rats, preaching his most important discovery throughout the country — that poisoning rats was not in itself an effective way of controlling them. In fact, when rats are killed off, the pregnancy rates of the surviving rats double and the survivors rapidly gain weight. The rats that survive become stronger. "Actually, the removal merely made room for more rats," Davis wrote. The only way to get rid of rats was to get rid of the rat food, or garbage. But no one wanted to hear this: it was the dawn of the age of the chemical, of poisons and pesticides, and people seemed to want a sexier, chemical-based fix. A forgotten accomplishment of David Davis is his debunking of what is still today the most often quoted statistic about rats — the one-rat-per-person rule. This statistic is ritually used in news stories about rats and has been for almost a hundred years. It is not true. It is a bastardization of a statistic derived from a study of rats written in England in 1909 by W.R. Boelter, titled "The Rat Problem." At the time, Boelter toured the English countryside and asked the following question: Is it reasonable to assume that there is one rat per acre? People responded by saying things like "certainly" or "absurdly low." Boelter did not ask people in cities the same question, and in the end, he made an educated guess: one rat per acre in England. Because there were 40 million cultivated acres in England at the time, he concluded that there were 40 million rats. Coincidentally, 40 million people lived in England in 1909. The one-rat-per-acre statistic became one rat per human.

People loved that statistic, perhaps because they abhorred it. They did not bother to recalculate for their own particular rat and human populations — an extremely labor-intensive process that only Davis even seemed interested in doing. And thus, it has become the sacred rat statistic. The United Nations has used it. Pest-control companies use it. Health departments use it. Even today, it is commonly said that in New York there are eight million rats, one for every New Yorker.

We don't know exactly how many rats there are in New York City today. "The newspapers, they all want that number," says Robert Corrigan, a rat-control consultant recently hired by the city. "It's all gobbledygook." But we know that there are probably fewer than eight million. We know this thanks to Davis, who in 1949 analyzed New York's rat population and called the one-rat-per-human statistic "absurd." He had just completed a precise calculation of the rat population of Baltimore by trapping, counting burrows and measuring such things as rat runways and rat droppings. In New York, he began his work in six blocks in East Harlem, bringing in an experienced trapper. At first, Davis determined there were an average of three rats per apartment in infested Harlem buildings, mostly in kitchens and bathrooms.

But he further determined that more people thought they had rats than actually had them. When he added up his calculations, New York's rat population was nowhere near eight million. Even the New York waterfront, which was mythically associated with rats, was less infested than assumed. "Certainly, there are no more than a few thousand in the entire dock areas of New York City," Davis wrote. In all, Davis put the rat population of New York at one rat for every 36 people, or 250,000 rats — a rat population roughly the size of the human population of Akron, Ohio, today. When the health department read Davis's report, it canceled a citywide rat extermination plan. Still, the number-of-humans-equals-number-of-rats formula would not die. It is something people want to believe. A few years later, even the New York City Health Department was telling people that there were eight million rats in New York. Rat hysteria continues, some of it understandable, some of it successfully playing up the larger-than-life news-selling power of rats: see the excellent night shots of rats that show up like seasonal bird migrations on summer TV news broadcasts, the rats skittering in the camera light, the grease-slicked sidewalks shimmering. Rat-infestation complaints to the health department increased this year, from 16,000 for fiscal year 2002 to 21,000 for 2003. This past summer, in addition to the evacuation of Engine Company 298 from its fire station in Queens because of Rattus norvegicus, there were reports of rat infestations throughout the city: one well-publicized rat sighting nourishes the next. On Aug. 14, the day of the big blackout, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced an expansion of the experimental Bushwick program, increasing inspections and exterminations in the Bronx and Harlem and budgeting $300,000 for rat-resistant garbage cans — news that was lost in the blackout. "New York to rats — drop dead!" he said from a lot in Bushwick.

The city's largest rat problem, the infestation in and around ground zero following Sept. 11, was successfully controlled by advance work by the health department, as well as exterminators who volunteered from around the country. But their efforts got little attention in the press. Months later, James Gibson, the Health Department commissioner who heads the city's rodent-control program, testified to the City Council that they had successfully contained a potential rat explosion. After it was all over, Markowski, who like Li has since left the health department, summed it up this way: "This is our dilemma. If you're out there doing your job, there are no rats. But it's notoriously hard to confirm your job. The only way to prove it is to stop."

That autumn afternoon in Bushwick, after we had trapped the rats and were setting up our rat-blood-drawing station in the abandoned lot, Markowski and Li began to tackle their second rat. They started with a larger dosage of halothane on the second rat, hoping to anesthetize it quicker. It was a larger rat, a foot long. "He's very healthy," Li said. "He's missing a little hair on his nose, but I think that's because he was trying to get out of the cage." They found no fleas on the rat, which was a good thing. (In fact, the C.D.C. would eventually find that there did not appear to be a significant rat-flea infestation in New York City rats, making a potential flea-borne biological plague weapon less effective.) "Anne, you want to bleed this one?" Markowski asked. "O.K.," Li said. Two cotton balls soaked with halothane were not enough. They tried more. "This is what, four balls?" Markowski asked. "Man, four balls after taking two balls already." Markowski shook his head again and held a cotton ball to the rat's big rat nose. "We're underestimating these rats," Markowski said.

Li agreed. "These guys are amazing," she said. She began to draw blood from the rat, but as she did it became clear that the rat was not asleep. "Uh, he's still awake," Li said. Markowski had already noticed this. He had seen the rat moving, seen it reviving and regaining consciousness, and rather than waste precious rat crisis time alerting us to the rat's movements, he was, in an impressively unfrantic way, looking for a way to stop the rat — any way to secure the rat, to hold it down. Finally he just stepped on the rat's tail. "Oh, you were just play asleep, weren't you?" Markowski said. The rat rose up and seemed to slash at Markowski; it snarled. In a minute, they had it anesthetized again. The wind blew and the shed door slammed and I saw a white cat come out of the trash, emerging from behind a plastic replica of a Greek bust. In knocking out the third rat, Markowski and Li increased the halothane dosage significantly. When they thought the rat was asleep, they took it out of its cage. It, too, was a large healthy rat, a foot long. Markowski was beginning to bleed the rat. As he did, he noticed something on the rat's fur. "What's that?" Markowski said. "It's a tick," Li said. Markowski leaned into the rat. "It's a mite." "O.K., Dan," Li said. But as they were talking, the rat began to squiggle greatly. This time, the rat's movement was more than just the groggy squiggling and snarling that the other rats had made; this time, even after a large dose of tranquilizer, the rat was somehow recovering all its rat strength. Markowski stopped drawing blood. He moved calmly but rapidly. He seemed to think about trying more halothane on the rat. Then the rat moved again — this time less rat-on-drugs and more wild rat. Markowski put his foot down on the tail "Oh, that's it," Li said. She backed away — never once taking her eyes off the recovering rat. Markowski pulled up his foot. I was standing there, too, right next to the rat, and I looked around to figure out where I could run, if necessary, and then realized that I was between the rat and a wall — trapped. So I just stood as still as possible, as the rat lifted his big body up and first waddled, and then walked and then wearily scampered off. I was trembling a little. Markowski was not trembling, but he did seem as if he were in shock. "I'm using my foot," he said. He was speaking in the present tense, as if watching a replay. "But the rat still gets up, and pulls himself away." Markowski was really shaking his head now. In fact, he was no longer telling me to keep rats in perspective. "Rats are incredible, they really are," he said. "I mean, there aren't many animals you can bleed like that and that can take it." Li added: "And the thing is you're never going to beat them. They have something going for them that you don't, which is natural instinct. Like you don't instinctively get rats. You're not a cat. But they instinctively avoid death and the obstacles that we put in their way to kill them. Besides, I always say that if you killed every rat in New York City, you would have created new housing for 60 million rats."

"Let's put it like this," Markowski said. "If you put that cat in that bag with the halothane, he'd be dead." We all stood there and looked over at where the rat had returned to the wild.

"It's a New York City rat," Markowski said.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

February 20th, 2004, 10:05 PM
Was Frank Zappa from NYC? (Hot Rats!)

Thanks for the grisly news. We might need to get a cat or ten when we move to Queens.

I am trying to find out where that Queens firehouse was that was razed because it was overrun by rodents.

BTW, is there a newer map of where the rat things are in the NYC region?
Things must have changed since 1999, with 9/11 and all, so I wonder if there are fewer rats than back then or more.

****Not to be a rattusphobiac (is that a word?), but
where are the MOST rat-infested areas of the Big Apple? It makes worms sound so appealing! Please let me know. i like to cook and hate to have rat droppings,etc in my food.

NYR2B and hates rats
but my name rhymes with them
Matt (not a rat!) 8)

February 24th, 2004, 01:01 PM
Labor Rats (http://www.rion.nu/v5/archive/000464.php)

February 24th, 2004, 01:46 PM


February 25th, 2004, 10:16 PM
Is it any coincidence that Frank Sinatra and his gang were known as The Rat Pack?

From Zippy's Labor Rats link, it appears that NYers love rats (or it that only "worker rats," as in "worker ants"?).

I hope I won't have to deal w/ many of them nose to muzzle when I am a NYR. (real rats, not inflatible ones-- I aint that kinky!)

BTW, there's a twisted Aussie <<The Dapper Rat>>who takes pics of those creatures for fun.

Oddly enough, the one in the pix reminds me of Stuart Little. Didn't he lived in New York City? Must've!

March 6th, 2004, 09:48 PM
March 7, 2004


The Meaning of Rats


Q. I've seen the giant inflatable rat in front of nonunion work sites and hotels that are having labor disputes. Just what does a business have to do to merit the rat, and who decides?

A. Construction and General Building Laborers Local 79 says it introduced the rat to New York about 1997, borrowing the idea from Chicago unions. Since then, other unions have bought inflatable rally rats of varying sizes, and at any time there could be more than half a dozen rats humiliating employers around the city. While unions set their own standards, Local 79's system is probably typical.

A "rat contractor" is an old phrase in construction and can refer to an employer who is not providing proper safety equipment, benefits or wages, said Richard A. Weiss, communications director for Local 79. When the union gets a complaint, if the job site isn't one the union is already monitoring, the union research department checks it with the reports all contractors are required to file with the city. The actual decision to send out one of the gray, red-eyed, snarling rats is usually made by Local 79's market development department, Mr. Weiss said.

The Mason Tenders District Council, which oversees Local 79, owns seven rats, mostly from 12 to 15 feet high but including a monster 30-footer, which is often used for high-rise sites. "We've got a whole family of them," Mr. Weiss said. Other unions can request a visiting rat. During teacher contract negotiations several years ago, and during the short strike led by the musicians' union that kept most Broadway theaters dark for four days last March in a dispute over the size of the orchestras, "they called us in," he said.

E-mail: fyi@nytimes.com

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

August 16th, 2004, 04:18 PM
City's scurry worry
Rat complaints up despite crack

Critter complaints are way up.


Despite a year-old effort by the Bloomberg administration to crack down on rats, the rodents are still everywhere - and complaints are on the rise, city records show.

New Yorkers' complaints about rats have risen by 8% since the summer of 2003, and are up 40% since the summer of 2002, according to records obtained by the Daily News.

There is no accurate count of how many rats live in the city from year to year but Health Department officials insist the mayor's initiative has made a difference in some neighborhoods.

Still, they admit the battle is far from over.

"It's overwhelming but we have to do something," said Dr. Edgar Butts, assistant health commissioner for veterinary and pest control services.

As for which borough has the biggest rat problem, Butts said it is not even close.

"The rat problem in the Bronx is worse than anywhere else in the city," Butts said.

"It's four times worse than in Manhattan and eight times worse than in Brooklyn."

Mayor Bloomberg's war on rats began last Aug. 14, when he boosted the $12 million rat-control budget by $1 million.

Saying, "City to rats: Drop dead," Bloomberg committed the extra money to the most rat-ridden areas of the city: Bushwick, Brooklyn; Concourse Village, Melrose and Highbridge in the South Bronx, and East Harlem in Manhattan.

In Bushwick, Inocencia Nolasco remembers when she could not make it down the block without a rat scurrying in front of her.

"The rats were the owners of the streets," the 61-year-old grandmother said in Spanish. "You used to hear people screaming because of the rats."

Increased inspections, exterminations and ratproof trash cans have made a big difference on her block.

But problems persist - one rat popped up in broad daylight while Nolasco gave a reporter a tour of nearby Myrtle Ave. A dead one was splattered across the street, just feet from a massive bait trap.

"This would never be acceptable in a higher income neighborhood," said Andrew Friedman of Make the Road by Walking, a Bushwick-based community group.

Councilman Bill Perkins (D-Manhattan) said the city does not have a long-term commitment to getting a handle on the exploding rat population.

"They do a rat raid, a blitz, and then they leave," he said. "The only way they can win the war on rats is with a consistent, comprehensive approach."

Perkins would like to see the city create a separate office dedicated to rat control.

Health Department officials said inspections have increased by 31%, to almost 84,000, between July 1, 2003, and June 30, 2004, compared with the previous fiscal year.

Exterminations increased by 12%, to nearly 84,000.

Butts said the city will focus more attention in the Bronx, where a bad combination of vacant buildings, lots filled with overgrown weeds and unsealed trash containers has added up to a haven for rats.

But vermin is far from a Bronx issue. Over the past year, hair-raising rat horror stories have popped up across the city.

Last summer, firefighters from Engine 298, Ladder Co. 127 and Battalion 50 in Jamaica, Queens, had to move out of their firehouse while it was gutted to flush out rats.

Handyman Manuel Rodriguez turned himself into an urban folk hero by battling the rats on W. 109th St. in Manhattan with a homemade bat.

One night in May, he killed 15. His one-man war against rodents made the front page of the Daily News.

Ad a joke but no one's laughing

Desmond Tinsley, 39, stands in front
of sign on W. 115 St. that his deceased
father J. Edward, painted a year ago
because of the booming rat population
on the Harlem block.


"ADOPT A RAT," offers the sign on the corner of W. 115th St. and Frederick Douglass Blvd., in Harlem.

The sign is a joke, albeit a grim one.

J. Edward Tinsley had it painted a year ago, after rodent reproduction drove him to the breaking point. Tinsley died six months ago but his son, Desmond Tinsley, takes calls from those curious enough to dial the number painted below.

"I tell people to adopt a rat from the block, then at least we can get them off the street," Tinsley, 39, said.

Area residents say rats have owned the block between Frederick Douglass and Adam Clayton Powell Blvds. for at least two decades.

Like clockwork, the rats come to life when the sun goes down, causing garbage bags to rustle and kids to scatter from nearby stoops.

"You don't want to be out here in the dark," said 25-year-old Nutiek Cowan, who has lived on the block for 15 years. "Cats won't help, either, because the rats are the same size."

"Supers have tried things," added Ryan Mitchell, 25, "but nothing has worked."

Linda Guzman, whose exterminating company, Pestrol, started treating the block for free last month, said the area is a rat paradise.

"I've seen some horrible stuff, but that area is the worst I've ever seen," said Guzman.

"Usually I see five or six rats on my first walk of a block. There I saw 70. And it was light out."

Tinsley said he used to snipe at rats with his BB gun as a kid. Later, he switched to glue traps.

"They aren't afraid of us anymore," Tinsley said. "You can try to scatter them and they look at you like, 'What do you want?' "

Tinsley chained trash cans above ground but the rats climb fences and gates to push the lids off.

Councilman Bill Perkins (D-Manhattan), who lives a block away, has heard the frustration from residents.

"People call me in winter," he said. "Their cars won't start because rats have climbed up on the engine and gnawed through wires."

But Guzman has given some hope to the rodent-weary residents.

"They've helped already," said Tinsley. "It shouldn't have to be like this.

"We shouldn't have to live like this."

Originally published on August 16, 2004

All contents © 2004 Daily News, L.P.

November 13th, 2004, 06:30 AM
November 13, 2004

City's Quest to Roust Rats Gains a Measure of Success


Humans declared progress yesterday in their unceasing war with rats.

About one year after New York City announced an ambitious plan to take the fight to the long-tailed rodents and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg sounded the battle cry "City to rats: Drop dead," 1,200 properties have been swept clean of the pests, according to city health officials.

Owners of an additional 6,500 properties housing tens of thousands of residents have "corrected conditions conducive to rodents," according to a report by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Still, the report acknowledges that rats are no easy critter to control and that in some neighborhoods, they continue to rule the shadows and alleys.

That is especially true in the South Bronx, where the city intends to devote extra attention.

"Nearly half of the inspected Bronx properties had evidence of recent rat activity - almost twice the rates in Manhattan and Brooklyn," according to the report.

To gather evidence, members of a multi-agency Rodent Task Force so far have inspected more than 27,000 properties in city neighborhoods including parts of the South Bronx; East and Central Harlem; and the Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant sections of Brooklyn.

"The city is making significant progress in controlling the rat population, but there is much more that needs to be done," said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the city health commissioner.

The rat control initiative came after the number of complaints about rats jumped to 21,000 in the 2003 fiscal year from 16,000 in the 2002 fiscal year.

There was also a high-profile closing of a firehouse in Queens because of rat infestation last year.

But this is hardly the city's first attempt to control the rat population.

As Robert Sullivan chronicles in his new book, "Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants," health officials and politicians have been battling the vermin for the last century.

From a two-decade-long fight with rats on Rikers Island starting in 1915 to infestation problems of 1997, it has been a long struggle with no clear winner.

In the latest assault, the city brought together officials from 20 agencies to individually inspect 37,000 public and private properties. Inspectors cite property owners if they have conditions conducive to rats. If an owner fails to fix a problem, the city steps in, does whatever work is necessary and bills the owner.

The most obvious area for improvement is typically garbage storage, and to that end, the city is distributing 5,800 "rodent-resistant garbage containers made of high-grade plastic with attached, hinged lids" free of charge to properties with high infestation.

"We urge tenants and landlords to reduce food available to rats, because this is the most effective way to cut down on rat populations," Dr. Frieden said in a statement. "For instance, put your trash in sealed bags and properly cover your trash cans, and call 311 anytime to report a rat problem."

Rats are not only a problem as a symbol of urban decay, but are a health concern because of their ability to carry disease.

In undertaking the latest initiative, city officials have also been able to learn more about just how rats live. The hope is that in the event that some disease harmful to humans makes its way into the rat population first, like bubonic plague, officials will be able to react more effectively.

There is no tally of just how many rats live in New York City, but according to the report, rat populations exist on local levels, just several city blocks.

It seems rats, like other New Yorkers, don't need to travel far to get just about everything they need.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

November 23rd, 2004, 01:29 AM
November 23, 2004

More Rats? Pied Pipers Are Needed, Officials Say


City Council members accused health officials yesterday of not doing enough to curb the spread of rodents, and said a new board should be created to deal with the problem.

Citing 11,146 complaints about rats received by the city's 311 call center in the fiscal year that ended in June, the members touted a Council proposal to establish a Pest Control Board. Legislation to create the board, whose members would be appointed by the mayor, was introduced in February, and the Council has yet to vote on it.

At a joint hearing of the health and governmental operations committees, Christine C. Quinn, chairwoman of the Health Committee, criticized the Bloomberg administration's handling of rodent complaints, and said the Bronx had especially severe problems that were not receiving enough attention.

A Council report prepared for the hearing said that pest complaints by New Yorkers last year increased 8 percent from the previous year and 40 percent from two years ago.

Edgar R. Butts, the City Health Department official in charge of pest control, defended his agency's record, and suggested that some of the reason for the increase in complaints was that "311 is so effective." He said Health Department workers respond to all complaints that are specific enough to be investigated. "We're trying to do the best that we can do to respond to the problems," he said. "We're not perfect."

Mr. Butts said the administration opposed creating a Pest Control Board because it would create "an unnecessary structure that is not only costly but also duplicative."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

June 27th, 2006, 03:56 AM
June 27, 2006
Rats Are Swift, but Audit Finds Response to Them Is Sluggish

Nearly three years after it revamped its rat control program, the city health department still takes too long to investigate complaints about rodents, according to an audit released yesterday.

The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said it was trying to improve its performance, but noted that its workload had surged during the period covered by the audit, an increase it attributed to the debut of the city's 311 citizen complaint and information line.

The audit, by the office of City Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr., found several improvements in the department's handling of pest-control operations since a similar audit was last conducted, in June 2003. But in one critical area, timeliness, the audit found mixed results.

According to the audit, the department replaced its previous goal of conducting an initial investigation within 10 days of receiving a complaint with a generic principle that workers should "respond to all rodent complaints immediately after receipt."

But it took the city an average of 30 days to conduct an initial inspection after a complaint, according to the audit, which reviewed the response times to 8,484 complaints the city received from tenants, business owners and customers in late 2004.

The average initial response time varied considerably among the six regional offices of the department's Office of Pest Control Services, from a low of 18 days for the Staten Island office to a high of 42 days for the North Brooklyn office. The other offices are in South Brooklyn, East Harlem, the Bronx and Queens.

Even so, the 30-day response time marked an improvement from 2003, when it took the city an average of 43 days to conduct an initial inspection.

In response, the department said the 10-day goal was abandoned because it and other performance standards were unrealistic. "These standards did not reflect the actual operations, resources or seasonal changes of our program," officials wrote in the response.

But the department suggested in a statement yesterday that it would revisit that decision. "Time frames for response to complaints are needed," it said, adding that the department was drawing up more realistic goals.

The department also noted that the number of pest complaints it received rose by 40 percent, to 31,606 in the 2005 fiscal year, from 22,595 in the previous fiscal year. It attributed the increase to the fact that the 311 call center started taking pest-control complaints in the spring of 2004. For the current fiscal year, which ends Friday, the call volume does not appear to have continued to grow.

If a violation is detected during the first investigation, the department will send out a letter giving a property owner five days to correct the problem before the city conducts a follow-up inspection. The average time between the first inspection and the sending of the letter grew to 81 days, from 29 days in the last audit.

Similarly, the period between the sending of the letter and the follow-up inspection grew to 33 days, from 15 days in the last audit. (The previous goal was 10 days.)

The new audit noted an improvement in the end of the process. The time between the follow-up inspection to extermination or cleanup fell, to 31 days from 61 days. (The previous goal was 10 days for an extermination or 20 days for a cleanup.)

Over the past decade, the city's pest-control program has been reorganized. In 1997, a program began that focused inspection and extermination efforts on 70 neighborhoods, rather than relying solely on complaints. In 1999, that effort was replaced with a program that used geographic surveys to assess areas with the greatest rodent problems.

The latest effort began in August 2003. Based on an earlier experiment in Bushwick, Brooklyn, it was intended to concentrate 19 agencies' resources on "eliminating the conditions in which rats flourish," with a focus on parts of North Brooklyn, the South Bronx and East Harlem.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

June 27th, 2006, 10:43 AM
Bond St. between Lafayette / Bowery (with the construction of 40 Bond / 35 Bond across the street from each other) seems to be the Rats GCT --

Open-toed shoes on that block after sundown are not advised :eek:

June 27th, 2006, 11:40 AM
Oddly enough, I thin we are handling this in the wrong way.

I think the rats should be given birth control and not pesticide. This way, they still take up space, and they still compete for food and other resources, but they cannot reproduce.

This would not make an immediate dent in the population, but you would probably see a significant drop in 6 months to 2 years if this was done regularly.....

June 27th, 2006, 12:12 PM
Oddly enough, I thin we are handling this in the wrong way.

I think the rats should be given birth control and not pesticide. This way, they still take up space, and they still compete for food and other resources, but they cannot reproduce.

This would not make an immediate dent in the population, but you would probably see a significant drop in 6 months to 2 years if this was done regularly.....

How about giving them both - poison and birth control? :)

Maybe we should allow the bums to redeed rats like cans - 5 cents per rat

June 27th, 2006, 12:18 PM
I think the rats should be given birth control But will they use it?

Maybe we need a boom time for cats?

June 27th, 2006, 12:44 PM
Originally Posted by Ninjahedge
I think the rats should be given birth control

But will they use it?

And will the pharmacist fill the Rat's Rx :confused:

June 27th, 2006, 01:40 PM
But will they use it?

Maybe we need a boom time for cats?

I had a feeling this woud come up.

No we are not trying to distribute rat rubbers (as opposed to rubber rats, totally different) to rat neighborhoods.

No we are not using Chinese Rat control where they forbid more than one ratling per litter.

And no, we are not concerned about "Underaged Rat-Tail".

Glad that is all out of the way.

June 27th, 2006, 02:32 PM
I'm not sure how seriously anyone is taking the rat contraception idea, but I have read that contraception hasn't done much to control deer populations... now you may make the requisite bambi comment...

June 27th, 2006, 03:30 PM
I'm not sure how seriously anyone is taking the rat contraception idea, but I have read that contraception hasn't done much to control deer populations... now you may make the requisite bambi comment...

vs. Godzilla?

June 27th, 2006, 05:33 PM
I'm waiting for some smartass manager to order up a giant inflatable cat. Wait a minute, is the Thanksgiving Garfield for hire?

Labor Rats (http://www.rion.nu/v5/archive/000464.php)

June 27th, 2006, 05:43 PM
I used to love cats and was looking to get one until...I read this (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/20/science/20toxo.html).

June 27th, 2006, 05:53 PM
"It's perfectly safe to keep a cat," he said. "Just keep it inside." Not many outdoor cats in NYC anyhow.

June 27th, 2006, 06:15 PM
It seems some people tolerate rats as long as they keep to their "assigned" areas - such as scurrying along subway tracks, but any minor crossing of barriers causes a panic attack.

Last summer I was at a Yankee night game with friends. Taking the subway home, we changed at 59th St for the A. The station was packed. For those not familiar, there is an unused center platform at the station. My friend noticed two rats calming exploring the platform, and told her husband:

"Look, rats on the platform."

"You were born in the city. Never saw a rat before?"

"Yeah, but they're right out in the open. They're not supposed to do that."

"I didn't know we had a contract with them."

June 27th, 2006, 07:24 PM
quaint boston has cute little mice...

June 29th, 2006, 04:02 AM
June 29, 2006
East Harlem Journal
A Place Where Rats Swagger, and Cats Travel in Packs

Along 109th Street between Third and Lexington Avenues. One store owner said he sprinkled around powdered cleanser containing bleach.

The rats do not even try to hide when Jose Sosa opens his father-in-law's car repair shop on 109th Street in East Harlem. Each morning when Mr. Sosa flips on the light in the dim garage, they simply stare up at him as if they own the place.

"I used to jump," he said, looking warily in the direction of a stack of cardboard where the rats usually gather. But now he is used to them, he said, so long as they do not run toward him.

Like many blocks in New York City, the one where Mr. Sosa works in East Harlem, bordered by 109th and 110th Streets, and Third and Lexington Avenues, has rats. This particular neighborhood may have a few more than most.

An audit released on Monday by the office of City Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr, found that the city's health department was slow to respond to complaints about rats. Though the audit indicated that the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's efforts to fight rats had improved, East Harlem topped the list as a source of rodent-related complaints. The people who live there, work there and shop there have their rat stories.

Mr. Sosa said that like most New Yorkers he knows that rats are a part of city life and always will be. He tried to poison his once, but to no avail. "They're too smart for that," he said.

So, about 8 a.m. each day they welcome him to the shop.

Still, each night Mr. Sosa turns off the merengue and salsa music he plays at the shop, leaves behind the smell of bacalaitos and chicharrones from El Coquí Restaurant around the corner and goes home to the Bronx, leaving the rats behind.

Other New Yorkers — especially in East Harlem — come home to them.

Things like the construction lot on 110th Street, food waste from the block's groceries and open metal trash cans make rats happy.

Gema Romero, a hair stylist at Xochitl Unisex Barber Shop on 110th Street near Lexington Avenue, said she had a rat encounter in an apartment she lived in on 117th Street until about three months ago.

There, she had to keep the kitchen door closed at night for fear that the rats would creep into her bedroom. One night this spring, the rats did get in.

On her way back to bed from the bathroom, Ms. Romero said, she forgot to shut the door, and three rats got into her bed. She went to battle, armed with a broom, and eventually she was able to clear them out.

Bruce Gee, a co-owner of Mr. G Sneakers, a sportswear shop on Third Avenue at 110th Street, said he is a less violent fighter. He sprinkles around powdered cleanser with bleach.

Mr. Gee pulled a 99-cent can of Ajax from behind his cash register, found it a prominent spot on the counter and proclaimed his sportswear shop rat free.

Inspecting a pair of jeans on display in Mr. Gee's store window, Jeffrey Ramos, 27, said things were better in the apartment he shares with his parents on 110th Street between Second and Third Avenues since the building was renovated. But when he was a teenager, it was a different story.

"Back then I had big ones," he said. "Crawling on top of the bunk bed, I would hear them. I don't know how I used to deal. Thank God, I would get to sleep."

Cleotilde Martinez said that after 20 years in her apartment on Second Avenue, her son saw their first mouse yesterday morning. She said she had never encountered a rat at home.

Window shopping at Third Avenue and 109th Street, around the corner from Mr. Sosa's repair shop, Ms. Martinez clasped a plastic bag holding a box of four new mouse traps.

"I know it has a mother," she said. "Or a brother."

For Carlos Caravallo, 66, who manages a social club in a basement apartment on 109th Street, said just one mouse would be enough to scare him to death. His club, where retirees play dominos and socialize, is across the street from a vacant building — a breeding ground for rats — with a brimming trash bag propped near its locked door.

Mr. Caravallo has adopted cats to keep the rats away. He feeds eight strays from cans of Friskies cat food, and the cats spend their afternoons in the courtyard out back. He has not seen a rat in the club for about seven years.

Mr. Caravallo is unsure of the last rat's fate after a member of the club sent a cat they called Devil toward it.

"I went running," Mr. Caravallo said.

Eddie Hernandez, who stands at a liquor store's cash register behind a glass wall, said the store, on 110th Street, does not have anything that rats want.

"Rats don't drink," he said. "That's it."

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

June 29th, 2006, 08:14 AM
Mr. Caravallo has adopted cats to keep the rats away. He feeds eight strays from cans of Friskies cat food, and the cats spend their afternoons in the courtyard out back. He has not seen a rat in the club for about seven years.

A man in accord with the balance of nature.

June 29th, 2006, 09:06 AM
SO long as they take care of the cats.

You know kitties can be disease carriers too!

(For some reason I am reminded of the Daffy Duck cartoon where he puts a mouse in the hotel room of Elmer and proceeds to sell "remedies" for him... and remedies for teh remedies....)

June 29th, 2006, 09:47 AM
I'll take a kittie disease any day of the week!

June 29th, 2006, 09:58 AM
I know. And I know I have been feeding the fire with this, but you have to ask around.

Pet cats are a LOT different than some of the strays you see scurrying aorund. And they breed almost as fast as the rats! They carry fleas and ticks, and their urine is noe of the most potent substances out there both in smell and in deleterious effect (corrosion, deterioration...)

We have two cats at home and I love them, but I have also delt with strays (taking them to be fixed and innoculated and bringing them back to their territory. Also taking kittens into no-kill shelters...). They are something that you should not take lightly....

Although I agree, they are MUCH better than rats......

July 5th, 2006, 07:21 PM
The LA Times published this article today: http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/asection/la-na-rats5jul05,1,7683011.story

"Ask Bertrand Saint Victor if he's seen any rats lately, and the 30-year-old parking lot attendant laughs wearily.

"Rats?" he said. "This place is full of rats, all over."

Nearly every evening, they scurry along the alley between the apartment buildings that border the paved lot on Lexington Avenue in East Harlem, and no one seems able to stop them.

"Help — it doesn't exist," Saint Victor said.

He's far from the only one in New York who feels overwhelmed by the rat population. Last week, in an audit of the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's rodent control efforts, the city comptroller chastised officials for taking a month, on average, to respond to rat sightings.

Officials said there was a reason for the slow response: After the city opened its 311 complaint and information line in the spring of 2004, rat complaints spiked by 40% and reached more than 31,000 in 2005. So far this year, the city is on track to register a similar number of complaints.

The audit of the city's rodent control efforts is just the latest marker in the unending struggle against the seemingly indestructible brown rat, a battle that has preoccupied New Yorkers for more than a century.

"It's a huge challenge," said Jessica Leighton, deputy commissioner for environmental health, noting that rats account for one of the leading complaints to the health department. "We've made a huge amount of progress, and we need to continue to make progress."

No one knows how many rodents prowl the city's sewers and alleyways. The most commonly cited statistic — that there is a rat for each of the 8 million-plus residents in New York — is dismissed as overstated by most experts, who contend that the true figure is unknowable.

But there's no question that rats are an ever-present plague of city living. They creep out at dusk, eliciting squeals as they skitter across sidewalks and poke out of garbage bins. They prance boldly along the subway tracks, casting lumpy shadows that draw disgusted looks from passengers waiting on the platforms.

Brown rats — formally known as Rattus norvegicus, or Norway rats — probably made their first landing in America in New York after hitching a ride on ships from Europe around the time of the Revolutionary War.

The burgeoning city, with its dense population, mounds of refuse, and labyrinth of subway tunnels and sewer pipes, proved to be a fertile habitat.

Since the rats' arrival, New York has been fighting the hardy creatures with all manner of traps, poison and public education campaigns. But no matter what they do to beef up rodent control efforts, city officials acknowledge that they harbor little hope of ever being able to eradicate the rat population.

One reason: virility.

"Most likely, if you are in New York while you are reading this sentence or even in any other major city in America, then you are in proximity to two or more rats having sex," Robert Sullivan wrote in his 2004 book "Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants." He noted that rats could mate up to 20 times a day, meaning that one pair could have 15,000 offspring in a year.

Three years ago, New York officials decided that their rat control efforts were falling short and took a new tack dubbed the NYC Rodent Initiative. The program aimed to corral the efforts of 19 city agencies in eradicating the conditions in which rats flourish and better educate residents about how to curtail activities that attract rats.

Three communities where rats have been especially pervasive — central Brooklyn, the South Bronx and East Harlem — were chosen as the main target areas.

When prevention doesn't work, the city tackles the problem with baited traps, exterminating more than 88,000 rats last year.

"We're trying to be proactive in our work to address the rodent problem," said Leighton, adding that the department is now starting a broader effort to pinpoint the worst rat infestations around the city.

But some residents said officials needed to do more.

Beatrice Jones, chairwoman of Community Board 3 in Brooklyn, one of the original target areas, said the number of rats fell initially a year ago when the city distributed large, sturdy garbage cans for multiple-dwelling residences. But a series of construction projects, especially in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, has triggered a rodent explosion, she said.

"We are inundated with rats," said Jones, a day-care center director. "It is an epidemic in our community. People call us almost every day and say that they see rats going up and down the street and trying to get under their gates. New York rats are bold."

Rasheed Murray, a 29-year-old writer, said things hadn't improved in his neighborhood of East Harlem, either.

"It's nasty," he said, wrinkling his face in disgust. "You can see them running in between the buildings and down the alleys. They're almost as big as cats. They put out stuff to kill them, but it doesn't work. They just come back."

City officials said that no matter what efforts they made, residents and business owners had to take responsibility for proper garbage disposal to help control rats.

"It's like any health issue," Leighton said. "Prevention is the best way to address the problem."

A walk down East 97th Street on a recent afternoon provided a glimpse of the challenge. On one corner outside a large apartment building, dozens of trash bags, piled more than 3 feet high, spilled across the sidewalk. Down the street, where luxury condominiums were being built, two huge, uncovered trash bins brimming with bottles, fast food bags and other detritus jutted out from under the scaffolding.

"I think it's pretty natural to have rodent issues in such a big city," said Robyn Lerner, 23, a social worker, as she walked home through the neighborhood. Still, she said she was unnerved every time she glimpsed a rat.

"They're kind of hard to see," Lerner said, "so when you do, you think, 'How often am I in contact with them and I just don't notice?' "

July 11th, 2006, 04:57 AM

July 11th, 2006, 07:53 AM
Friend of yours?

July 11th, 2006, 08:46 AM
Where are the crows when you need 'em?

July 11th, 2006, 09:23 AM
Just the thing to be looking at while I'm eating breakfast. Thanks anti!

December 5th, 2006, 04:28 AM
In Epic Battle, the Rat Patrol Adjusts Its Aim and Digs In

Rat droppings in the Bronx, found behind wooden panels
stacked against a building wall, were examined by health
department workers.

Published: December 5, 2006 (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/05/nyregion/05rats.html)

In its aggressive strides to improve the quality of life, New York City has drastically curtailed its crime rate. It has overhauled its chaotic school system. But in one area, success is elusive: The city’s rats remain as bold and showy as ever, darting through well-lighted subway stations as blasé New Yorkers watch and scurrying through its public parks at will.

Confounded in previous tries to control the rat population, the city has profoundly shifted its approach in recent few years in an experiment that is being watched by cities across the nation. Instead of waiting for residents’ complaints and responding with rat poison and baits, officials want to tackle the root cause of infestations. They hope to reduce the number of rats by curtailing the food supply — exposed or easily accessible garbage — and controlling the clutter and debris where rats thrive.

The jury is still out on whether the new strategy is working. The number of pest-control complaints has nearly doubled since Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg took office in 2002, surging to 32,160 in the fiscal year that ended on June 30, the highest in years. But the number of rat bites, which disproportionately affect children and which are considered especially worrisome because rats can spread disease, is at its lowest level in decades. The disparity has mystified some experts.


Officials attribute part of the increase in complaints to the inception of the city’s 311 hot line in 2003, but they concede that the problem is broad and stubborn. Surveys by the Census Bureau show the rate of rodent infestations — 28.7 percent of rental units and 7.6 percent of owner-occupied housing last year — has remained fairly stable since the late 1990s.

In the last fiscal year, the number of exterminations plummeted, but city officials attribute part of that drop to the improved handling of duplicate complaints. However, it can take months for the city to respond to a rodent complaint, a problem that has been cited in several audits by the city comptroller.

An exterminator in Brooklyn poured
rodenticide into a burrow hole.

One part of the new effort involves collecting information on computers, block by block and building by building in the most rat-infested areas of the city. Another element is a public education campaign with colorful posters and slogans like “Feed a Pigeon, Breed a Rat” and “Help New York City Send Rats Packing.” The city also conducts classes for many workers called the Rodent Control Academy, using a federal grant.

In addition, each Tuesday, representatives of 22 agencies — including the Buildings, Health, Parks and Sanitation Departments, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Housing Authority — gather in Lower Manhattan to discuss who should handle rat sightings in places like sewer drains, alleys and playgrounds. The group, known as the citywide rodent task force, was formed in 2000 under Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and has been expanded under Mr. Bloomberg.

The most effective strategies for rat control have been known for a century but have rarely been followed with rigor, according to Stephen C. Frantz, a retired State Department of Health official and an authority on animal-borne diseases.

“The key to success was environmental management that focused on eliminating food sources, water and harborage,” he said. “Today, we place far too much reliance on poisoning.”

Complicating the problems, rats are developing resistance to many of the poisons used on them.

The Norway or brown rat, the species prevalent on the East Coast, has been around since the Colonial days, but systematic efforts to control the pests did not begin until the late 19th century, with the hiring of rat catchers paid by the rat. The development of powerful rodenticides in the 1940s prompted widespread extermination efforts. New York City officials started such a campaign in 1948.

Later, New York was one of 65 localities that received federal grants from 1972 to 1981 under a program that emphasized public education, sanitation, code enforcement and, to varying extents, poisoning, according to Jerry M. Hershovitz, a longtime official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who oversaw the federal program.

“Unfortunately, since 1981, when the federal program ended, there’s been a resurgence of the rodent problem in many communities,” said Mr. Hershovitz, who retired this year. “Today, most rodent control programs are complaint-oriented and are limited to poisoning and, sometimes, trapping. Undoubtedly, rodents are taking advantage of the situation.”

New York’s rat problem gained new attention under Mr. Giuliani, who doubled spending on pest control in 1997 under pressure from politicians in northern Manhattan, which has historically been a major theater in the war on rats.

Bill Perkins, who represented central Harlem on the City Council from 1998 to 2005 and was elected last month to the State Senate, led a committee that convened a “rat summit” at Columbia University, held seven hearings and produced a report in 2001 that called for lessening the use of poison and improving trash removal and sealing cracks and holes in building foundations that allow rats to move about.

That preventive approach, known among specialists as integrated pest management, has gradually become the city health department’s official policy, particularly because of increasing safety concerns about poisons and the resistance rats are beginning to show to the poisons.

The city’s first pilot project based on that approach used a federal grant to control rats in a 48-block area in Bushwick, Brooklyn, starting in November 2001. The area was inspected for conditions that encourage rats: loose garbage, overgrown lots and holes that let them get into buildings.

Harold B. Pou, an exterminator, worked on a yard filled with rat burrows in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, where
he dropped rodent poison.

The city hired two neighborhood organizations to hand out brochures and put up posters. The city cleared litter and debris from parks, schools, playgrounds and city-managed apartment buildings and other public properties. Rat-resistant trash cans were given away. Within a year, more than half of the properties met inspection standards, up from one-third.

Using city money, the Bloomberg administration expanded the program in August 2003 to cover 1,500 blocks in central Brooklyn, the southern Bronx and northern Manhattan. The rat populations dwindled in those neighborhoods, but the program, the Mayor’s Rodent Control Initiative, ended last December after a series of building-by-building inspections was completed. Some fear that bad human habits may return, and, with them, the rats.

With limited resources, the health department is now trying to apply integrated pest management by collecting better neighborhood data.

“Rodents don’t just live on one property,” said Jessica Leighton, an epidemiologist who has been the deputy commissioner for environmental health since last year. “They’re in a community.”

One of her deputies, Edgar R. Butts, a plant physiologist, said: “You can bring a trainload or boatload of rodenticide into the city. But as long as you have food and harborage, you’ll have rats.”

The Bureau of Pest Control Services has a staff of about 235, which includes 43 inspectors, known as sanitarians; 24 exterminators; and 111 lot cleaners. The department spends about more than $8 million annually on rat control, a number that has fluctuated over 20 years.

Michael Mills and Eric Han, both sanitarians, are putting into practice a strategy of rat surveillance, known as indexing. Using maps and property information downloaded onto tablet computers, they look for six “active rat signs”: tracks, active runs (streak marks created when rats run along walls), fresh droppings, gnawing, visible holes and “live rats seen.” (The last is, mercifully, rare.) Each characteristic is recorded on a scale of zero to three.

On a recent walk through the Bedford Park neighborhood in the Bronx, the two men pointed out relics of private efforts, like abandoned bait stations and haphazardly applied patches of concrete. Some property owners even cordon off their yards with sheet metal in a usually futile effort to prevent rats from entering.

Why the rats remain is no mystery, given the abundance of waste New Yorkers leave behind. In an alley next to an apartment building were two exposed trash cans. Inside one was an empty can of Chef Boyardee spaghetti and meatballs, with a residue of sauce.

At another building, the workers found a series of freshly dug burrows at the base of some yew bushes in a concrete, elevated planter that ran along the front. The planter was littered with paper, a discarded soda cup and other trash. A white foam food container was perched at the top of one burrow, apparently dragged there by a rat.

The side yard of a 25-unit building on Valentine Avenue held piles of trash, construction supplies and other clutter. In the corners of the lot were the soft, black pellets: rat droppings. The building has new owners who have hired private exterminators and a new superintendent, a property manager said.

The data will eventually help health officials to prioritize blocks with improperly stored garbage or hazardous amounts of debris; to use rodenticides more selectively; and to better inform residents about how to dispose of garbage. Rats bore into plastic bags effortlessly and can even gnaw through thick plastic trash can lids. Metal cans are ideal, but sanitation workers do not like them because they are heavier and have been linked to injuries. At the least, residents are urged to cover their cans.

While the city does not know if its rat population is increasing or declining, the complaints are continuing to roll in.

Owners of private property are responsible for controlling rat infestations on their premises. If inspectors responding to a complaint — most often from renters — find signs of rats, they issue a letter giving the owner five days to correct the problem. If the problem is still there on a follow-up inspection, the department sends in exterminators and lot cleaners, then bills the owner for the work.

The surge in complaints keeps the exterminators busy. On a recent morning, two veteran exterminators, Larry J. Adams and Harold B. Pou, parked a city van in front of an apartment building in Brooklyn. The front yard of a building on Bushwick Avenue was perforated with rat burrows, indicating a severe infestation.

Using a rubber tube, they poured packet after packet of a rodenticide, Talon-G, into the burrows. Each packet contains 25 milligrams of blue-green pellets of brodifacoum, an anticoagulant that is highly toxic to rats and leads to fatal bleeding.

“We’ve complained so many times,” said Manuel Matias, 24, a resident who peered out of a third-floor window to watch the work.

Outside another apartment building, on Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, a rat carcass was in plain view. The yard was riddled with burrows, and a superintendent said the owners planned to pave it.

Mr. Pou marveled at the yard. “This is what I call a golf course: 18 holes,” he said. “We’ve been here many times, and we just can’t seem to beat them.”

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

February 26th, 2007, 02:01 PM
Health Dept.: 'It Doesn't Look Like Inspection Met Standards'

KFC-Taco Bell Passed Thursday, Failed Miserably Friday

POSTED: 6:22 am EST February 23, 2007
UPDATED: 4:34 pm EST February 25, 2007 (http://www.wnbc.com/news/11089614/detail.html?dl=mainclick)

Slideshow: Rats Everywhere At NYC Restaurant (http://www.wnbc.com/news/11089614/detail.html?dl=mainclick#)
Video: Rats Run Wild (http://video.wnbc.com/player/?id=64901)

NEW YORK -- The city health department was trying to figure out Sunday why a KFC-Taco Bell restaurant had passed an inspection the day before video footage caught a dozen rats scampering across its floors.

The health said it was investigating why the Greenwich Village restaurant passed an inspection on Thursday but failed miserably the very next day.

The restaurant passed an inspection in March 2006 -- though it was fined $1,300 for some violations including mice droppings -- earning 23 points. On Thursday, the KFC-Taco Bell passed another check -- earning nine points -- after complaints to the city's information line 311 prompted an inspector to visit.

"It doesn't look like the inspection that was done Thursday met our standards," said Geoffrey Cowley, a health department spokesman. "I don't want to prejudge that. We're concerned, and we're going to carefully re-evaluate that inspection."

On Friday morning, after gymnastic rats were filmed turning the restaurant into their personal playground, a more senior inspector gave the fast food operation 92 points (27 or under is a passing score). The inspector said there was “evidence of rats, and holes in the floor and ceiling.”

The fast-food operation, located in Greenwich Village, was shut down by the city on Friday after the video of the rodents was widely broadcast and attracted streams of sidewalk gawkers. The restaurant remained closed on Sunday.

Cowley said no action had been taken against the Thursday inspector but that the department was looking carefully at the situation. "We inspect 30,000 food establishments every year," he said. "We're doing vigorous enforcement."

A blue tarp blocked the interior as contractors made repairs inside. “They’re trying to plug up some of the holes. They’re trying to do the best maintenance they can to stop the problem,” one contractor told NewsChannel 4's Pei-Sze Cheng.

City health department officials said they’ve been receiving complaints for three weeks about rodents at this restaurant.

Wilson Salas, the superintendent of an upscale apartment building adjacent to the restaurant told Cheng he was concerned that driving rats out of the Taco Bell would force them into other nearby buildings.

Exterminator Ron Charles said preventive rodent-proofing measures should be followed, especially in light of new construction around the city.

Referring to the restaurant, Charles told Cheng "with something that bad and the amount of rats that were active in that place, no pest control had been done.”

The parent company for Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell was back in damage-control mode Saturday after a NewsChannel 4 camera caught about a dozen rats running around the fast food restaurant.

A viewer had called the WNBC tipline (1-866-NEWS-CH4) with information about the rats.

Parent company Yum Brands, of Louisville, Ky., said the rodents are "completely unacceptable" and "an absolute violation" of company standards. The company said that the franchise owner "is actively addressing" the problem and that the restaurant will remain closed until the problem is resolved.

Friday's rat report came while the company was still smarting from an E. coli scare in late 2006.

The company said construction in the basement on Thursday appeared to have further stirred up the rodents.

The city Health Department has shuttered the restaurant, located at 6th Avenue and West 4th Street. It was not open for business when the rats were filmed.

"Today this establishment had serious unsanitary conditions. [There are] vermin throughout," said NYC health inspector Carol Feracho.

Health Department records list the franchise owner as ADF Fifth Operating Corporation. The owner couldn't be reached for comment, despite numerous phone calls
Greenwich Village residents said they were disgusted to see the sheer number of rats but were not entirely surprised to see the jumbo critters running around, NewsChannel 4’s Pei-Sze Cheng reported.

"The whole neighborhood is infested. [We] always have a problem with them," said resident Geraldine Reres.

"Occasionally a restaurant has one rat, but this is ridiculous," added Andy Keidel.

According to workers at the tattoo parlor two doors down, the rats have always been there. This is just the first time they've been on television, Cheng said.

One area restaurant manager told Cheng that rodents are common in the Village because it's a busy place with a lot of garbage on the streets, and restaurants have to be careful not to leave any food out whatsoever.

Read the report from the Board of Health (

The same restaurant has had problems with the Health Department before, having been cited in 2006, 2005 and 2004, according to NewsChannel 4's Adam Shapiro.

Just two months earlier, the restaurant had been cited with having "evidence of live mice" but since then, the Health Department Web site showed that the issue was resolved.

Rats have long been a problem in New York City, with such a dense population and such a large and readily available food supply for the rodents. They are frequently scampering through subway tunnels, rooting through trash, dashing across parks and burrowing into the walls of apartment buildings.

But it is rare to see so many rats congregating in one place in such public view.

The city Department of Health had inspectors at the site on Friday, said department spokeswoman Sara Markt. She said the restaurant had passed inspection in December, but a violation was issued to the restaurant owner about "evidence of rats" -- which meant only some droppings at the time.

Joel Cohen, who lives in the building next to the restaurant, had a more graphic view of the situation.

"I'm living over the place that is feeding the rats of New York City," said Cohen, who works in real estate. "This place is a disaster. They throw their rubbish in the doorways. It's loaded up with food in bags that are not tied, and the rats have eaten through the bags."

Yum Brands stock closed Thursday at $61.60 and opened slightly lower on Friday, at 60.40 cents. It was not clear whether the news had any effect on the stock price.

Last week, it was reported that Taco Bell sales had slumped after a widely publicized E. coli scare, but that international sales helped Yum Brands in the company's fourth quarter.

The E. coli outbreak late last year caused more than 70 Taco Bell customers to become ill.

Federal officials said in December that the most likely source of the illnesses was lettuce. Taco Bell took precautions by changing its suppliers of lettuce and cheese in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

If you see a rat problem in New York City, you are urged to contact the rodent complaint department. (http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/pest/pestrat.shtml)

February 26th, 2007, 02:17 PM
The only way to effectively control rats it to eliminate their food supply. Poisening/trapping doesn't work. Plugging holes doesn't work. As long as they have something to eat, they'll be around. And since their food supply is our food supply, I don't think they're going anywhere.

February 26th, 2007, 02:25 PM
I have to say, the rats are cute, but they give me the heebie-jeebies as well. (I had a mouse as a pet for a few years).

I wonder what made them all come out, and why it took KFC that long to call in an exterminator to at least trap the suckers.

As for health, my old apartment was like that. The previous restaurant runner downstairs had a dumpier looking place, but he kept it spotless and let the landlord know whenever there was a problem.

The NEW ones dolled it up nicely, but as soon as the owner was not working there every day, the workers would drag leaky garbage through the shared common hall downstairs, not clean up and all. We started getting roach problems about 6 months after they switched.

I think the KFC/TB is just hiring a bunch of kids that don't want to clean up.

February 26th, 2007, 02:34 PM
Oh please you pansies. There are people that eat rats all over the world.

A little rat couldn't hurt anyone and in fact, could even be quite tasty if sauteed (http://www.snopes.com/photos/food/rats.asp#photo4) well... :D

February 26th, 2007, 02:52 PM
You could always tie one to a stick and beat your enemies with it:


Link: http://www.vgcats.com/comics/?strip_id=110

(Mature, but work safe)

February 26th, 2007, 04:33 PM
This is what I always wonder: Is Mickey Mouse a rat?

I mean, the guy is at least three feet tall.


February 26th, 2007, 05:30 PM
Especially if they're carrying Eursinia Pestis (which I'm probably misspelling).

Oh please you pansies. There are people that eat rats all over the world.

A little rat couldn't hurt anyone and in fact, could even be quite tasty if sauteed (http://www.snopes.com/photos/food/rats.asp#photo4) well... :D

February 28th, 2007, 04:33 PM
is there really so many rats as this looks like?
i'm thinking of college in nyc
i got one cat
maybe i need 10
or at least get my cat that ninja training :)
but seriusly is really that bad?

February 28th, 2007, 04:42 PM
is there really so many rats as this looks like?
i'm thinking of college in nyc
i got one cat
maybe i need 10
or at least get my cat that ninja training :)
but seriusly is really that bad?

Rats tend to keep underground such as in sewers and subway tunnels for the most part. You won't really see rats too often on ground level unless theres some kind of subterreanean disruptions such as construction or in some cases very poor heigiene to a very extreme case.

February 28th, 2007, 06:02 PM
Rats tend to keep underground such as in sewers and subway tunnels for the most part. You won't really see rats too often on ground level unless theres some kind of subterreanean disruptions such as construction or in some cases very poor heigiene to a very extreme case.

oh thats a releif lol

February 28th, 2007, 06:12 PM
Watch out if you live in some old tenament building. Some of them can have rats.

February 28th, 2007, 07:09 PM
Watch out if you live in some old tenament building. Some of them can have rats.

thanx for the warnin lol
ill check it out first
guess if its a good school should be safe?

ill still teach my cat to be ninja hah

(dont wanna think mickeys a rat though ewww)

February 28th, 2007, 10:36 PM
Rats tend to keep underground such as in sewers and subway tunnels for the most part ...

Until the sun goes down.

Then they're everywhere :cool:

March 1st, 2007, 11:25 AM
Health Dept.: 'It Doesn't Look Like Inspection Met Standards'

KFC-Taco Bell Passed Thursday, Failed Miserably Friday

wow, no sh!t. I mean, 'ya think?'

March 1st, 2007, 12:59 PM
Most cats don't want to know from rats. Too big. They prefer mice.

If you want to kill rats, get a Jack Russell Terrier. 90 lbs of attitude in 12 lbs of dog. You just have to get used to having a dog that's more headstrong then you are (and maybe smarter).

is there really so many rats as this looks like?
i'm thinking of college in nyc
i got one cat
maybe i need 10
or at least get my cat that ninja training :)
but seriusly is really that bad?

March 1st, 2007, 06:09 PM
Most cats don't want to know from rats. Too big. They prefer mice.

If you want to kill rats, get a Jack Russell Terrier. 90 lbs of attitude in 12 lbs of dog. You just have to get used to having a dog that's more headstrong then you are (and maybe smarter).

ohh yea i heard jack russells are good at that
great idea!!!
awsomely cute too haha
they are smart too i know somebody had one

March 1st, 2007, 06:23 PM
Being a Rat sucks:

Inspectors close more city restaurants

The same firm that closed ratty KFC/Taco Bell on Sixth Ave. decided to close all ADF Companies

http://a.abclocal.go.com/graphics/v3/global/stockgraphics/icons/wabc_byline.gif Eyewitness News

(New York - WABC, March 1, 2007) - The company that owns KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut preemptively closed a handful of its city restaurants after Health Department inspectors found conditions that "obviously do not meet our strict restaurant standards."

The closed restaurants are all franchises operated by ADF Companies of Fairfield, N.J. - the firm that also runs the ratty KFC/Taco Bell franchise on Sixth Avenue.
The Health Department closed the rat-infested Sixth Avenue KFC/Taco Bell last week -- and vowed to reinspect all other restaurants operated by ADF Companies.

After a day of reinspections yesterday, the company that owns KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut decided to close all its ADF Companies franchises that have not yet been inspected by the Health Department.
"These few franchise units, operated by ADF in New York, obviously do not meet our strict restaurant standards based on health inspection reports," said
Emil Brolick, President U.S. Brands, Yum! Brands, Inc.

"They will remain closed until we are absolutely certain they will operate at our high standards. We apologize to our customers and are taking every action, with the assistance of external sanitation experts, to get to the bottom of this. We are redoubling our efforts to inspect every restaurant and are reinforcing all our restaurant cleaning and sanitation procedures," Brolick said.

"We are absolutely committed to our customers and have worked with ADF (a franchisee of KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut), to close their uninspected restaurants in New York until they are fully inspected by the health department and given a clean bill of health. We will not compromise on our food and restaurant quality," Brolick added.

A spokesman for Yum! Brands would not say how many KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut restaurants were preemptively closed.
ADF Companies owns 20 fast food restaurants in the city, and runs nearly 400 franchise restaurants across the U.S. They are the second-largest Pizza Hut-franchise operator in the country.

Restaurant Locations Closed by Health Department 6th Avenue
Victory Boulevard
Myrtle Avenue
Hylan Boulevard
Restaurants Closed by Company
Bruckner Boulevard
East Fordham Road
Horace Harding Expressway
Rockaway Boulevard
Queens Boulevard
Fresh Pond Road
Hillside Avenue
Cross Island Pkwy
21st Street
3rd Avenue

Click here to view New York City inspection information for any restaurant! (
(Copyright 2007 WABC-TV)

March 1st, 2007, 07:36 PM
ok, just yuk
i bet they closed because it would be more embarasing when they closed cuz of the rats

March 1st, 2007, 09:36 PM
The closed restaurants are all franchises operated by ADF Companies of Fairfield, N.J. - the firm that also runs the ratty KFC/Taco Bell franchise on Sixth Avenue.

ADF Companies (http://www.adfcompanies.com/)




Hungry Rat (http://www.artshole.co.uk/arts/artists/Nicola%20Hollick/Hungry-Rat.jpg)

:eek: :eek: :eek:

March 1st, 2007, 09:38 PM
Kentucky Fried WHAT (http://www.stayfreemagazine.org/archives/19/contamination.html) ????

March 1st, 2007, 09:41 PM
Who me????


Hungry rat with cheeses (http://www.goodies-dollshouse-miniatures.co.uk/showcase/05_tudor_food.html)



User Name
March 1st, 2007, 10:07 PM
Maybe rat contraceptives are called for? Or just a more effective poison than the current bromides.

That and people could be neater with their trash.

March 12th, 2007, 08:22 PM
Kentucky Fried WHAT (http://www.stayfreemagazine.org/archives/19/contamination.html) ????

ew ew ew ew ew ew
why oh why did i have to click on WHAT
that's just sick
somebody ate one?
and its not really chicken anyway???

March 12th, 2007, 10:03 PM
ew ew ew ew ew ew
why oh why did i have to click on WHAT
that's just sick
somebody ate one?
and its not really chicken anyway???

That's a classic urban legend but it is completely untrue. Read up on it.

March 13th, 2007, 12:27 AM
That's a classic urban legend but it is completely untrue. Read up on it.

thank you very much
think i was gonna have nightmares

March 14th, 2007, 03:36 PM
Nice little barb from John Stewart comparing the Armies Medical Center (forgot the name) to or own KFC... ;)

May 18th, 2007, 12:12 PM
I don't mean to bring this up again, but y'all need to go into the City's parks at night, especially City Hall......they all mayors up in there!!!!!!

May 18th, 2007, 05:23 PM


May 21st, 2007, 09:35 AM
Oh, THAT's where tehy all went. I was wondering what happened to the one at 44th and (5th?)......

You know, i would support the Unions a lot more if they would stop playing from such a position of corrupted power. They started off well enough, and got a lot of things going thatthey really needed and deserved, but once they got a lock on NYC and other areas....

Well, their leaders are more concerned about making more for less work overall. Something we all would like in one way or another for ourselves. But when you have regulations saying you need two guys to lift any cinderblocks larger than 8" (and you go to the site and see one guy lifting and the other guy "directing") you have to think, Is this what we really need? :(

November 10th, 2007, 04:50 AM
Where the Rats Come Out to Play

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2007/11/10/nyregion/10rats.xlarge1.jpg Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
In City Hall Park, rats scurry about during the day. “At first I thought it was a squirrel,” said one man who was eating his lunch on a bench.

By THOMAS J. LUECK (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/l/thomas_j_lueck/index.html?inline=nyt-per)

Published: November 10, 2007
The New York Times.

The rat that was circling André Thomas’s feet was big and brazen, measuring more than a foot from the tip of its tail to a pointed snout that arched upward to the aroma of Mr. Thomas’s ham and cheese sandwich.

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2007/11/10/nyregion/10rats.large2.jpgTyler Hicks/The New York Times
The rats in City Hall Park seem perfectly at ease there, and sometimes are as playful as squirrels.

The encounter might not have seemed all that unusual to many New Yorkers, who have become wearily accustomed to rats bounding along subway tracks or lurking about garbage bins, usually after dark.

But this rat sighting came as a shock to Mr. Thomas because of when and, especially, where it took place — 2 p.m. on a brilliant fall afternoon while he sat on a bench in City Hall Park, a nine-acre jewel of the municipal park system that underwent a $30 million renovation in 1999. The park is a cornerstone of the city’s efforts to revive Lower Manhattan.

“At first I thought it was a squirrel,” Mr. Thomas said as he strode away. “Isn’t this where the mayor works?”

Mr. Thomas’s rodent experience was hardly unusual. If he had looked under the park’s benches and around its meticulously cropped foliage, he would have spotted at least six other rats scurrying around, unconcerned about the humans all around.

The infestation of rats in City Hall Park, clearly an embarrassment to the city, was acknowledged in interviews by senior officials of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the city’s lead agency for rodent control, and the Department of Parks and Recreation.

“It’s just a big issue down there and we all recognize it,” said Jessica Leighton, the health department’s deputy commissioner for environmental health. Adrian Benepe (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/b/adrian_benepe/index.html?inline=nyt-per), the commissioner of parks and recreation, said that City Hall Park provided “a perfect set of circumstances for rats.”

Indeed, the park’s extensive makeover not only produced a verdant oasis, but inadvertently also created a haven for rats: leafy ground cover in abundance, garbage cans that proved rodent-friendly and droves of lunchtime visitors carrying brown bags with deli sandwiches. Adding to that are large construction projects in the neighborhood, including the World Trade Center site, that have forced rats from their underground homes.

Of course, rats can be found in much of the city’s 2,900 acres of parkland. And they are surely no less bothersome to a parent who sees one in her child’s favorite playground than to someone who is part of the largely adult and professional crowd that gathers each day in City Hall Park.

“I don’t know of a park where you won’t see them,” said Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving public parks. For years, he said, the city has devoted too little money to controlling rodents in the parks.

Mr. Benepe said there was no way to know if the rat infestation in City Hall Park was worse than in other parks. But, he said, the factors attracting them there went beyond the bread crusts, mustard-laden sandwich wrappers, banana peels and other food that visitors jettison every day.

The park, a historic center of civic life since the early 1600s, when the southern end of Manhattan was a Dutch trading colony called New Amsterdam, sits atop an abandoned subway station as well as some of the city’s most intricately layered tunnels, sewers and underground utility equipment.

“The infrastructure provides subterranean highways for rats,” Mr. Benepe said, “and gives them a warm and secure place in the winter.” And a recent stretch of warm winters has reduced the proportion of the rodent population that would normally be eliminated each year by the cold.

Besides work at ground zero, heavy construction nearly surrounds the park, including work on a new subway transit hub being built at Fulton Street and Broadway. “It’s causing a lot of disruption for rats,” he said.

So far, officials said, several anti-rat measures have been taken at City Hall Park. Pellets laced with rodent poison have been inserted into the burrows that the rats have dug under the park’s lawns and foliage, and in boxlike containers designed to keep them from being eaten by dogs, squirrels or birds.

Ivy, a ground cover that had been used extensively in the park, has been removed, because it provided a hideaway and a breeding ground for rats. Mesh-style garbage containers, which are easy for rodents to get into, have been replaced with solid metal cans.

An outside pest control expert, who has been working as a part-time consultant to the city, is to begin a full-time job of coordinating rat control efforts by several agencies on Tuesday.

Dr. Leighton, an epidemiologist, said the best remedy, would be for “people to be proactive and not throw trash on the ground.”

But for now, it appears, the rats have the upper hand. And their presence in City Hall Park is also remarkable because rats — known generally as a nocturnal species — are coming out in daylight.

They also seem unafraid of people and at perfect ease in their surroundings, sometimes appearing as playful as squirrels.

Steve Jacobs, an urban entomologist at Penn State (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/p/pennsylvania_state_university/index.html?inline=nyt-org) University who has worked as a consultant on rat control to the National Park Service (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/n/national_park_service/index.html?inline=nyt-org), said rats were in constant search of new sources of food. And though they tend to shy away from sunlight, they are highly adaptable.

“They have an ability to assess dangers,” Mr. Jacobs said. “If they keep coming back, get a little closer each time, and are rewarded with food, they start to feel comfortable.”

For some regulars in City Hall Park, the rats have aroused more curiosity than alarm. Gerard Ginnane, a health program administrator who works in Lower Manhattan and who has gone to the park around 2 p.m. on most weekdays for years, favors a bench less than 100 yards from the front door to City Hall.
Since early October, he said, he has seen rats on almost every visit. One of them, he said, jumped on top of a chain link fence behind a row of park benches where people were eating their lunch and sashayed to the rim of a garbage can.

“My theory is that the rats are coming out early in the afternoon because that’s when they find food,” he said. “You can’t blame the parks department for not cleaning up, because they do a good job after the lunch crowd is gone. But that means there is little left for the rats at night.”

For tourists who might visit City Hall park only once, an encounter with a rat could be expected to leave a lasting impression. But several out-of-towners interviewed in the park recently seemed to be taking the experience in stride.
Lisa Harris, 32, a fashion designer from Toronto, was sitting on a bench in the park when she realized that a rat was inching toward her feet. She did not move but continued eating her lunch as the rat scurried away.

“What can you do?” Ms. Harris said. “In Canada, we have rats, but I can’t say you would find them in the parks. I don’t like them, but I am not about to scream and jump up and down.”

Frank Kuzma, a retired special education teacher from Grand Rapids, Mich., was in the park with his wife and daughter after visiting his son, a lawyer who works in Lower Manhattan, when a rat appeared, running between shrubs. “Whoa,” he bellowed, “that’s not a squirrel over there!”

November 12th, 2007, 03:53 AM
Looks like a job for Starsky and Hutch of West 74th St.

November 13th, 2007, 02:52 AM
Urban Tactics
The Starsky and Hutch of West 74th Street

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2006/07/16/nyregion/16rats_span.jpg Cary Conover for The New York Times
SNIFF On the hunt for rodents, Oscar, a Labrador-and-pit-bull mix, teaming up with Paxil, a petite blond Cairn terrier.


Published: July 16, 2006

IT was 5 on a crisp morning, and I had just left my building with Missy, my Welsh springer, for her first walk of the day. We headed along 73rd Street toward West End Avenue, turned right on West End and right again on 74th Street.

A third of the way down the block, we encountered a scene that Stephen King might have been proud of. On the sidewalk, next to a pile of shiny black garbage bags, one of which had a gaping rip, was the corpse of a rat the size of Punxsutawney Phil. The rat looked as if it had exploded.

I rushed Missy past the scene, much the way my mother used to drive fast past accidents on the highway, warning us not to look. But of course we were all eyes, as was Missy, who looked over her shoulder as she trotted the rest of the way home, a couple of steps behind me.

A few days later, in the dog run in Riverside Park at 72nd Street, I told a friend about the early-morning mayhem. “Sounds like Oscar’s work,” she replied.

I know Oscar; he’s a Labrador-and-pit-bull mix the color of butterscotch, with a face that’s all innocence. I couldn’t imagine him doing such a horrible thing. It turns out, however, that the pit-bull part of him does do such things, and often in the company of a petite blond Cairn terrier named Paxil.
Both dogs are rescued animals. Oscar was just two hours away from being put down when his owner, Chris Ryan, a lawyer who lives on Broadway near 74th Street, got an S.O.S. from an animal-rescue organization with which he has been active. Linda Fidelman, who is the president of a consultant firm and lives just around the corner, adopted Paxil from a Cairn terrier rescue organization.

The two dogs met late one night two years ago over a rat they were both after, and they’ve been hunting buddies ever since, vigilantes doing their best to rid the Upper West Side of rats.

A few days later I met Ms. Fidelman. I was on my way back from the park with Missy, and she was standing on the corner, Paxil sitting beside her, looking bored. Was it true, I asked, that Paxil was a ratter?
“She sure is,” Ms. Fidelman replied. “And she’s great mouser, too. I once had mice in my apartment, and she had the best time catching them.

“We were out the other night, and she stopped at a trash can near the subway station,” Ms. Fidelman continued. “She was really excited. I took the lid off, and about 20 mice came pouring out. She went crazy chasing them. I think she got about 10.”

As we talked, Paxil appeared to be watching for something, intently. “She looks like she’s waiting for someone,” I commented.
“The street washer,” her owner replied. “She barks at them, we have to wait until it shows up; she’ll follow it for blocks.”

Then she elaborated about the rats. Paxil and Oscar do their hunting late at night, during their last walks of the day. They began their crusade a couple of years ago, when they met in Riverside Park and prey was abundant. Paxil is an expert at flushing rats out of their hiding places. When she does, if they’re small enough, she’ll grab one and shake it until its neck snaps.

But once they’re dead, she has no further interest in them. If the rat is too big for her to lift off the ground, she leaves it to Oscar, whose steel-trap jaws and quickness make short work of the biggest, most intimidating rat.

When their Starsky and Hutch forays into the park began to yield only occasional trophies, the two began to concentrate on the block of 74th Street between West End and Broadway. A construction site where a Bobcat had been excavating deep below a town house had become a source for emerging gangs of rats, forced from lairs in which they’d been ensconced for generations. I’d been catching sight of them nearly every morning for months, watching them slip under the bright blue wooden construction gate. They foraged along the curbs among the stacked bags of refuse, and I’d see them scampering under cars, crossing the street as Missy and I approached.

The morning we saw the exploded rat seemed to signal the end of the boldly scavenging rat population on 74th Street. After that gruesome display, Missy and I saw very few of them. Perhaps it had been a warning. Either they’d moved on to another, safer, neighborhood, or Oscar and Paxil had cleaned up the block.

In the two years they’ve been hunting, Paxil has dispatched nine rats, and mice beyond counting. Oscar’s tally is 22. Not an enormous number altogether, but for them I don’t think it’s as much about exterminating as about hunting. Both have the instinct built into their breeds, and merely follow the urge to do the work expected of them.

I asked Mr. Ryan whether he comes across people who object to Oscar’s activities. On the contrary, he said; Oscar has been cheered for his rat-catching prowess.

Lethal as they may be, both Paxil and Oscar have their goofy sides. For Paxil it’s the street washers. For Oscar it’s vegetables. Once he was seen trotting home with a head of cauliflower in his mouth; he had found it in a pile of refuse in front of Fairway.

Now that West 74th Street is practically rodent free, I hear that Paxil and Oscar have been hunting near Verdi Square. They’re out late at night, when the 72nd Street subway station is quiet, when it is rare to see a taxi or delivery truck along Broadway, and when the rats feel safe enough to come up from the tunnels and the train tracks to enjoy the remains of the day.

Little do they know that Paxil and Oscar are on the job.

The New York Times.

November 24th, 2007, 08:45 PM
New York tops cities vulnerable to rat attacks

NEW YORK, Oct 4 (Reuters) - New York was named on Thursday as the U.S. city most vulnerable to a rat attack as warmer weather and aging infrastructure fuels rodent populations across the United States.

Rodent experts Dale Kaukeinen and Bruce Colvin have developed a way to assess the rat problem in different areas by looking at 14 risks factors such as the age of infrastructure, population size, climate, and waste management.

The rodent management consultants, who have worked with rats for about 30 years and call themselves the "rat pack," found New York with its large population and human density was most at risk of a rat attack followed by Houston and Boston.

"This isn't a top 10 list you want to be on but in many cities rodents are doing very well today," Kaukeinen told Reuters.

"We've recently had news of tragic cases of children being bitten by rats, plague in places like Denver, and rats rampaging about in New York restaurants."

Other cities in the top 10 of the list of 32 major municipal areas were Louisville in Kentucky, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Chicago, El Paso in Texas, and Milwaukee.

Kaukeinen said rat populations had flourished in the 1990s as metropolitan areas grew by nearly 10 percent, according to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, and as spending on combating rodents declined.

He said it was impossible to estimate how many rats there were in each city despite urban myths that there are about six rats to every human in New York, where the sight of a rat scuttling across a station platform or street is commonplace.

New Yorkers squirmed earlier this year when photographs of rats running wild at night in a Manhattan branch of Mexican chain restaurant KFC/Taco Bell were published widely, prompting the review and closure of numerous city restaurants.

"But we know that a female rat can have a litter every three weeks of 10 to 12 young, so even with mortalities you probably get 50 new rats a year from one female," he said.

"If half of those are female you can see that if you have a garbage strike the rat population will explode. Cities are so vulnerable and need to give this priority."

Kaukeinen said the 2007 Rodent Risk Assessment, which was sponsored by rodent control brand d-CON, would be used to urge cities to spend more on taking a pro-active approach against rats.

"There are no boundaries here. We are talking about suburbs, small towns, farms, schools, everywhere that might provide food water and shelter," he said.

"I have a lot of respect for rats. They are a formidable animal and it is a challenge to keep up with them."

December 21st, 2007, 11:26 AM
To Dismay of Inspectors, Prowling Cats Keep Rodents on the Run at City Delis

Holly scares the rodents away at home, a deli in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Published: December 21, 2007 (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/21/nyregion/21cats.html)

Across the city, delis and bodegas are a familiar and vital part of the streetscape, modest places where customers can pick up necessities, a container of milk, a can of soup, a loaf of bread.

Amid the goods found in the stores, there is one thing that many owners and employees say they cannot do without: their cats. And it goes beyond cuddly companionship. These cats are workers, tireless and enthusiastic hunters of unwanted vermin, and they typically do a far better job than exterminators and poisons.

When a bodega cat is on the prowl, workers say, rats and mice vanish.
That is the case at a narrow corner store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where a gray long-haired tabby named Halloween goes on regular patrols when she is not lounging on a plaid bed tucked behind dusty rows of Schweppes ginger ale and empty cardboard boxes.

“In the morning she is lazy, it is her nap time,” said Urszula Jawor, 49, the deli’s manager, a Polish immigrant who smiled with motherly pride at Halloween, adding that the cat was named for the day she wandered in off the street and claimed the Bedford Avenue store as her home.

“But in the afternoon she is busy,” Ms. Jawor said. “She spends hours stalking the mice and the rats.”

To store owners, the services of cats are indispensable in a city where the rodent problem is serious enough to be documented in a still popular two-minute video clip on YouTube from late February (youtube.com/watch?v=su0U37w2tws) of rats running amok in a KFC/Taco Bell in Greenwich Village. Store-dwelling cats are so common that there is a Web site, workingclasscats.com, dedicated to telling their tales.

But as efficient as the cats may be, their presence in stores can lead to legal trouble. The city’s health code and state law forbid animals in places where food or beverages are sold for human consumption. Fines range from $300 for a first offense to $2,000 or higher for subsequent offenses.

“Any animal around food presents a food contamination threat,” said Robert M. Corrigan, a rodentologist and research scientist for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. “And so that means anything from animal pieces and parts to hair and excrement could end up in food, and that alone, of course, is a violation of the health code.”

Mr. Corrigan did concede that some studies have shown that the smell of cats in an enclosed area will keep mice away. But he does not endorse cats as a form of pest control because, he explained, the bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites and nematodes carried by rats may infect humans by secondary transfer through a cat.

Still, many store owners keep cats despite the law, mainly because other options have failed and the fine for rodent feces is also $300. “It’s hard for bodega owners because they’re not supposed to have a cat, but they’re also not supposed to have rats,” said José Fernández, the president of the Bodega Association of the United States.

Luis Martinez, 42, has managed his brother’s grocery in East New York, Brooklyn, for two years. At first, despite weekly visits from an exterminator, the store’s inventory was ravaged constantly by nibbling vermin.

“Every night I had to put the bread in the freezer,” he said, pointing at shelves filled with bread and hamburger buns. “I was losing too much inventory. The chips and the Lipton soups all had holes in them.”

Then, last winter, a friend brought Mr. Martinez a marmalade kitten in need of a home. Mr. Martinez, who was skeptical of how one slinky kitten could fend off an army of hungry rats, set up a litter box in the back of the store, put down an old fleece jacket and named the kitten Junior.

Within two weeks, Mr. Martinez said, “a miracle.”

“Before you’d see giant rats running in off the streets into the store, but since Junior, no more,” he said.

Junior sometimes brings Mr. Martinez mouse carcasses as gifts, which he said bothers him less than the smell that permeates his store when the exterminator’s victims die and rot under a freezer.

In October, a health inspector fined Mr. Martinez $300 and warned him that if Junior was still there by the time of the next inspection he would be fined $2,000.

“He wants me to get rid of the cat, but the rats will take over if I do,” Mr. Martinez said. “I need the cat, and the cat needs a home.”

Because stores do not get advance notification of an inspection, Mr. Martinez is trying to keep Junior in his office as much as possible. Many bodega owners reason that a cat is less of a health threat than an army of nibbling rats. “If cats live in homes and apartments where people have food, a cat shouldn’t be a threat in a store if it’s well maintained,” Mr. Fernández said.

Some animal rescue groups, like the Spay and Neuter Intervention Project, support the legalization and regulation of store cats so that owners would be required to provide basic veterinary care and to spay or neuter their animals.

At a corner store in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Andre Duran, one of the owners, said he had kept a cat for six years and had never been fined.

“That’s Oreo,” he said, as he lifted a tiny black cat with white paws into his arms and carried her like a football. “No one’s ever complained about cat hair in their sandwiches, and if she weren’t here, you bet there’d be bigger problems than hair.”

As a line formed at Mr. Duran’s cash register and he excused himself to take orders, Oreo’s ears perked up and she slunk away toward the back of the store. She was, perhaps, in pursuit of something.

Oreo roams at a deli in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

December 21st, 2007, 05:53 PM
Extermination au natural.

December 21st, 2007, 06:11 PM
I find it strange that health inspectors are more comfortable with poisonous nerve gas flooded bodegas than they are one with a cat. :confused:

December 22nd, 2007, 11:01 PM
Welcome to the modern world.

December 26th, 2007, 10:20 AM
Stupid regulations.

They probably have to make other supplimental regulations for things like pest control. Say, no more than 2, the litterbox has to be in a place that it away from all but sealed food, the cat cannot have its bed in an area that COULD be contaminated, etc etc.

More specific so that you get a CLEAN cat in a store, and not the removal of the animal alltogether.

Christ! They have been doing this for YEARS at places like grain storage silos, breweries and other places, whats with that anal-retentive bureaucratic bull-----hockey with city regulation?

January 14th, 2008, 02:09 PM
Let's hear it for the RATS (not to mention the Researchers at the Univ. of Minn.) ...

Team Creates Rat Heart Using Cells of Baby Rats

NY TIMES (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/14/health/14heart.html?_r=1&ref=us&oref=slogin)

January 14, 2008

Medicine’s dream of growing new human hearts and other organs to repair or replace damaged ones received a significant boost Sunday when University of Minnesota researchers reported success in creating a beating rat heart in a laboratory.

Experts not involved in the Minnesota work called it “a landmark achievement” and “a stunning” advance. But they and the Minnesota researchers cautioned that the dream, if it is ever realized, was still at least 10 years away.

Dr. Doris A. Taylor, the head of the team that created the rat heart, said she followed a guiding principle of her laboratory: “give nature the tools, and get out of the way.”

“We just took nature’s own building blocks to build a new organ,” Dr. Taylor said of her team’s report in the journal Nature Medicine.

The researchers removed all the cells from a dead rat heart, leaving the valves and outer structure as scaffolding for new heart cells injected from newborn rats. Within two weeks, the cells formed a new beating heart that conducted electrical impulses and pumped a small amount of blood.

With modifications, scientists should be able to grow a human heart by taking stem cells from a patient’s bone marrow and placing them in a cadaver heart that has been prepared as a scaffold, Dr. Taylor said in a telephone interview from her laboratory in Minneapolis. The early success “opens the door to this notion that you can make any organ: kidney, liver, lung, pancreas — you name it and we hope we can make it,” she said.

Todd N. McAllister of Cytograft Tissue Engineering in Novato, Calif., said, “Doris Taylor’s work is one of those maddeningly simple ideas that you knock yourself on the head, saying, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ ” Dr. McAllister’s team has used a snippet of a patient’s skin to grow blood vessels in a laboratory, and then implanted them to restore blood flow around a patient’s damaged arteries and veins.

The field of tissue engineering has been growing rapidly. For many years, doctors have used engineered skin for burn patients. Engineered cartilage is used for joint repairs. Researchers are investigating the use of stem cells to repair cardiac muscle damaged by heart attacks. Also, new bladders grown from a patient’s own cells are being tested in the same patients.

Dr. Taylor is a newcomer to tissue regeneration. She began her professional career at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx investigating gene therapy and then cell therapy. She said she switched to tissue regeneration when she realized the limiting step in trying to generate an organ was not the number of cells needed, but the complexity of creating a three-dimensional structure.

“The heart is a beautiful organ,” Dr. Taylor said, “and it’s not one that I thought I’d ever be able to build in a dish.”

Her view changed about three years ago when she recalled that cells were removed from human and pig heart valves before they were used to replace damaged human ones. As she contemplated replacing the old rat cells with new ones, Dr. Taylor followed another of her mantras: “Trust your crazy ideas.”

Progress came in fits and starts. “We made every mistake known, did every experiment wrong and had to go back and do them right,” Dr. Taylor said.

She poured detergents like those in shampoos in the rat’s arteries to wash out the heart cells and then injected neonatal cardiac cells. The first two detergents she tested failed. But a third concoction led to a clear, translucent scaffold that retained the heart’s architecture.

After injecting the young rat heart cells into a scaffold, she stimulated them electrically and created an artificial circulation as the equivalent of blood pressure to make the heart pump and produce a pulse. The steps also helped the cells mature. Tests like examining slices of the heart under a microscope showed they were living cells.

To test the biological compatibility of the new hearts, the team transplanted them into the abdomen of unrelated live rats. The hearts were not immediately rejected. A blood supply developed. The hearts beat regularly. And cells from the host rats moved in and began to reline the blood vessels, even growing in the wall of the hearts.

Dr. Taylor is now conducting similar experiments on pigs as a step toward human work. “Working out the details in a pig heart made a lot more sense” because the anatomy of the porcine heart is the closest to humans and pigs are plentiful, she said.

“The next goal will be to see if we can get the heart to pump strongly enough and become mature enough that we can use it to keep an animal alive” in a replacement transplant, Dr. Taylor said.

As for human hearts, the best-case situation would be to obtain them from cadavers, remove their cells to make a scaffold and then inject bone marrow, muscle or young cardiac cells from a patient. The process of repopulating the scaffold with new cells would take a few months, she said.

The body replaces its proteins every few months, so the hope is that the body will create a matrix that it recognizes as its own.

One potential problem is that antirejection drugs might be required to prevent adverse immune reactions from the scaffold. In that case, Dr. Taylor hopes such therapy would be needed only temporarily.

Many things that work in experiments on animals fail in humans because of the species barrier. Dr. McAllister said that in Dr. Taylor’s case “the principal problem in escalating it to humans is one of scale, not of cell biology, and that is an easier problem to solve potentially.”

Dr. Taylor said, “If it works, it means that there will be many more organs available for transplants.”

Because the components of the biologic matrix differ for every organ, Dr. Taylor expects that scientists will be able to do tests to answer two fundamental questions: Can a stem cell be placed anywhere in the body and still produce a heart, kidney or other organ? Or must a stem cell be placed in its anatomic position to do so?

Such tests might include taking stem cells from one organ, for example a kidney, and putting them in a kidney, liver or heart to begin to understand if the stem cells are innately committed to produce kidneys or whether they will convert to produce livers or hearts.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

May 22nd, 2011, 01:37 PM
When I visited new york this year I`ve seen plenty of rats after dark in:
Madison Square Park, Union Square, Battery park, Times Square Subway Station, 8th ave and 37th str., three years ago we were attacked by squeaking plague on Dumbo, in this year there was construction site.

August 15th, 2011, 06:08 AM
http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2011/08/15/2011-08-15_theyre_big_they_look_like_rabbits_sez_spooked_v endor.html

August 15th, 2011, 12:34 PM
Wherever their's food available, there'll be rats. Eliminate the food, they'll go away.

August 15th, 2011, 12:52 PM
Rats or other types of rodents were in NYC environs before we showed up, and they'll likely be here after we're gone.

Controlling them is needed, but they'll never be eliminated.

August 15th, 2011, 01:25 PM
A loooong time ago, I thought that rats were an urban phenomenon. I discovered otherwise.

August 15th, 2011, 04:48 PM
I think the number and size they have achieved has been mainly due to urbanization, but they have been around for a very long time (like most mammals, actually. We are the noobs).

It is just that Humans seem to be the best thing that ever happened to Rat-kind! ;)

August 26th, 2011, 05:58 PM
Hopefully their spreading off will be stopped soon cuz now is definitely enough of rats in nyc :)

http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2011/08/26/2011-08-26_after_giant_rat_was_killed_marcy_houses_residen ts_still_living_in_fear_of_smalle.html

August 26th, 2011, 08:12 PM
Perhaps NYC should start deploying them:


August 26th, 2011, 09:14 PM
speaking of rats, if lower manhattan floods in the hurricane the Rats will all come scurrying out of their holes

August 26th, 2011, 09:48 PM
Sounds like a movie plot...