Don’t De-Ratify New York City


Czar Corradi should explore different methods of treating the rodent problem. (Courtesy of Instagram)

My first word was rat, so I am a bit partial on topics concerning rodents — in favor of said rodents, that is. 

It’s no secret New York City has a rat problem, and the fact that it stands out among the many, many other problems means that it’s disrupting daily life. Rats go where their food goes, and the menu here is, generally, garbage. It’s in bags on the curb or in buildings, loose on the street, overflowing from cans, the stenches wafting in the wind. So it’s safe to say that rats are pretty much everywhere, too. 

There are certain areas of New York that are more conducive to rats than others. The conditions in the subway system in particular offer ideal real estate for thousands of rats. Personally, I don’t believe these rats are the problem. For the most part, they mind their business — avoiding the third rail and feeding their families. 

The rats that need to go — or get a serious humbling, at the very least — are those that take up residence in people’s apartments. To me, it seems to be a structural integrity issue with the actual buildings in addition to garbage disposal protocol. Older buildings with orifices at the ground level allow rodents to get in easily. I think that working to seal these buildings from vermin is the first step in bettering living conditions for all parties, but the Mayor’s office seems to have a different approach. 

Mayor Eric Adams appointed the first New York City director of rodent mitigation earlier this week to keep tabs on the ever-growing rat population that we share a city with. “Rat Czar,” Kathleen Corradi, is a former elementary school teacher with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology as well as a Master of Science in urban sustainability. 

Part of Corradi’s approach involves reducing the amount of time trash sits on the curbs, as a garbage feast is a rat’s paradise. But, as urban ecologist Michael Parsons of Fordham University pointed out, most of the rats native to New York are nocturnal and enjoy moonlit meals. 

Obviously, there are health and sanitation concerns in areas housing large mischiefs, the term for a large group of rats. However, New Yorkers have been trying to remove rats from the city for centuries to no avail. Is there a way to get rid of rats for good? Will Corradi’s reign be a revolutionary breakthrough? 

I think one crucial element seems to be missing from the previous approaches to eradicate rats from New York: rats are smart. According to a New York Times article, rats have been trained to scuttle through earthquake rubble to look for survivors. They’re not trapped easily either — they tend to stick to daily routines and avoid new things. Scientific American reported that rats also have the ability to laugh. Maybe we’re not so different, rodents and us. Maybe, in order to rid the city of rats, we have to think like them. What would make us leave the only home we’ve ever known? Corradi is right to start at the food source, but then again, rats are both resilient and not picky.

That’s why I don’t think it’s realistic to try and rid New York of rats. But taking away easy access into people’s homes is a start at controlling them. A combination of managing garbage disposal as well as working to repair buildings in areas where rats find their way inside is what I think might be most effective in making sure rats keep to their subterranean nests. 

Unfortunately for those who want to completely eradicate rodents, rats play an important role in the city’s food chain. What other staple of New York vermin also dines on garbage? Cockroaches. When there’s an abundance of garbage, there’s an abundance of roaches. Like I said, rats aren’t picky. 

Personally, if I had to choose, I’d rather find a rat in my house than a roach. I’ve been told it’s a hot take, but I feel more comfortable dealing with furry mammals than large insects. One member of each species always indicates more, and I happen to find rats cute, even when they’re not being compared to cockroaches (rats alone, not their plague-ridden fleas). 

The next few months will tell us if Czar Corradi has what it takes to rein in New York City rats. I hope there’s a way to coexist with rats that we haven’t explored yet and keeps all parties safe and satisfied. 

Grace McLaughlin, FCRH ’23, is a history major from Ridgewood, NJ.