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Big rats continue to plague NYC's rat mitigation zones, residents say

Residents in NYC's rat mitigation zones say more should be done
Residents in NYC's rat mitigation zones say more should be done 04:27

NEW YORK - Almost every New Yorker saw Ruth McDaniels' viral comments saying she saw "rats the size of Crocs" running up and down the street of her Harlem neighborhood. 

McDaniels made the remark in August 2023 during the city's first "Anti-Rat Day of Action" led by the city's first ever "rat czar," Kathleen Corradi.

"The rats don't run this city, we do," Sanitation Commissioner Jessica Tisch said at the time. 

Nearly a year after that announcement, and many residents still feel differently. 

Ruth McDaniels talks to CBS NY about the ongoing rat problem in her Harlem neighborhood CBS New York

"I'm not really doing data, but I do see increased rat holes in areas that there weren't any. So in my mind, they've expanded their territory," McDaniels said. 

Since August 2023, the city claims that rat sightings have been down 68% in what New York City has deemed "rat mitigation zones." These zones are locations that the city says are the most rat infested in the whole city, based on data provided by 311 calls. But McDaniels says there hasn't been any noticeable change in the rat population in her neighborhood.

"Citywide we have seen a 16% reduction in the rat mitigation zone. But by partnering with Commissioner Tisch, we have seen a 68% reduction in rat sightings where the Containerization project is taking place in West Harlem," City Councilmember and newly appointed chair of the Committee on Sanitation Shaun Abreu said.

Tisch said that controlling the rat problem comes down to containerization. 

"In my opinion, the trash is the single biggest source of rats. Get that food waste out of the black bags. Put it in containers. That is the best thing we can do in New York City to fight rats. And that's what Mayor Adams has us focused on at the Department of Sanitation," Tisch said. 

"You know, I think he's actually done a lot when it's come to rodent mitigation and sanitation improvements. I don't think it's been happening fast enough. You know, where this [administration] did slip up is cutting that funding from some of these nonprofit organizations that were providing additional sanitation services," City Councilmember Chi Ossé said.

"Forget about the garbage pails. We gotta make these landlords, and the tenants... like, everybody, got to be held accountable," McDaniels said. 

Alyssa Mercante talks to CBS NY about the challenges she faces with a ground floor apartment and rampant rat sightings.  CBS New York

Another citizen who hasn't felt any relief from the ongoing rat problem is Bedford-Stuyvesant resident Alyssa Mercante. 

"I have cats, and I usually crack the window. But we're on the ground floor and [the rats] fight all night. The cats are shoving themselves to try and look under the window because they're fighting in the garbage out there. I can hear them fighting in the garbage out there. And there's a lot of them," Mercante said.

311 Call data analyzed by CBS New York Data Team CBS New York

"It's containerization. It's literally containerization, right? Like, it's wild to hear that there's like one solution to this problem for us, and we're just not there yet," Ossé said, "As long as we are continuing to throw trash within those black garbage bags, we will still continue to see rats within the city." 

According to 311 data analyzed by CBS New York, citywide, rat sightings are down 13% from 2022-2023, but this doesn't mean that residents are satisfied with the handling of the city's rat problem. Many feel their day-to-day interactions with the rodent population has not decreased in the past year.

"I'm going to Atlanta because I want a better quality of life. It's just disgusting here," McDaniels said.

"Priorities clearly aren't in the right place, but we knew that already," Mercante said.

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