Big Apple Ranked #1: What for?

“The Big Apple” has once more been proclaimed the number one city in the World, but this time it is for a less than flattering reason: rodent infestation. The website Animal Planet, in 2012, created a list of the “Top 10 Worst Rat Cities in the World,” and New York City ranked number 1.

We are dealing with a rodent control issue, and it is incontrovertibly a multi factored one. All five boroughs are impacted and included. Nevertheless, there are areas that are more severely infested than others. In 2014, The Gothamist, a local New York City news outlet published a map which locates the living rats:

The areas colored in yellow or light orange are also infested by rats, simply “less severely.” Nowhere is safe.

Quick Shocking Fact: In the building where diplomacy is in action, the rats discuss their issues too. Even the United Nations Headquarters has suffered from rat infestations.

According to the writer of the New York Times bestseller “Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants,” Robert Sullivan states, “It is estimated that NYC has twice as many rats as it has humans, which would mean approximately 16 million rats.”

This is not the most disturbing fact. Sullivan goes on to say, “There are more rats infected with the bubonic plague in North America, than there were in Europe at the time of the Black Death.”

To once more point to startling intelligence, female rats can have up to 15,000 descendants in one year. The bestselling author states, “A dominant male rat can mate with up to 20 female rats in just six hours.”

He says, “They [mice/rats] are adept at climbing, swimming, and yes, working their way through a serpentine of sewer pipes and exiting your toilet bowl.”

Unfortunately, this newsflash will not end the very alarming evidence of the danger that rat infestation evokes in our city. The author proclaims, “A third of the world’s food supply is consumed or destroyed by rats. Rats have eaten cadavers in the New York City’s Coroner’s office. Rats have attacked and killed homeless people sleeping on the streets of Manhattan.”

To put in perspective the seriousness of the issue and its far reaching effects Sullivan adds, “The Department of Homeland Security, as part of its post 9/11 bio-terrorism alertness effort, catches rats and inspects their fleas to see if terrorists have released the Black Death in New York City.”

The daily life of New Yorkers is challenged to new levels. Literally nowhere is safe.

To reserve a table in any restaurant, one would unconsciously share a meal with the mice, and pay a high price for it too. Even the most expensive restaurants are located in areas that share this very problem. It is true that more expensive restaurants might have a budget that can afford exterminators more frequently. So one might think that these restaurants are a safer way to go, but rodent infestation is constantly a threat, a threat for businesses and a threat for citizens. According to a Harvard University Graduate Study of 2013, in Manhattan, zip code area 10128, 74 out of 154 eateries are infested by rats.

The Health Inspection grading system has the primary objective of empowering the consumer by providing reliable information, and establishing an incentive for businesses to be more sanitary. In the long run, the goal is to fortify eateries from the dangerous rats. However, this has not been achieved.

The Health Inspectors are famous for their sternness. One of the finest and most expensive restaurants in the world, Per Se, received the grade C, CNN reported. In contrast, a Dunkin Donuts, in Ridgewood, Queens, one of the most severely rat infested areas, leaks all the garbage on the streets; receives witness based accusations from the community for its lack of sanitation, yet its grade is an A. Thus, the popular belief seems to be inaccurate.

The failure of the Health Inspection grading system makes its obvious that an overhaul is necessary. One reason for the system’s miscarriage is that it depends on individual inspectors who lack focused guidelines. This conflict, poor restaurant sanitation enables rats to roam everywhere and endanger the human settlement.

Artyom Matusov, a Legislative Policy Analyst at New York City Council stated, “We have a government agency that’s willing to blatantly lie to the public, if we cannot trust the health department to provide real scientific data … then we cannot trust any agency.”

If the City is to decimate its rat population, it is essential to tighten government action. However, that would not be nearly enough. The public is as essential.

Solutions are being implemented. The city financed $611,000, for a project that would bring 45 inspectors to neighborhood associations, community boards, elected officials, building owners, and businesses to plug holes and put poison in the rat holes and tunnels.

In addition, restaurants, other businesses, and even vacant buildings have owners, and those owners must be penalized in some form if they do not contribute to the effort of controlling rodent infestation.

The first step to implementing a sustainable solution has been completed by the work of Senator Bill de Perkins and the media, who published an interactive report on the rat issue. New Yorkers were asked to take a survey and reply to the question: “How often do you come into any form of contact with rats in the subway?” 87% of respondents said daily, and 80% described the situation to be severe or state of emergency.

To resolve the rodent infestation issue of New York the subway must remain in focus, because it is a hotspot for the rat population. It is where rats live, it is where rats reproduce.

Niels Bohr, a Nobel Prize physicist and philosopher once said, “Every great and deep difficulty bears in itself its own solution. It forces us to change our thinking in order to find it.” That certainly applies to this problem.

There are many possible solutions. One is to create a sustainable public education campaign to increase awareness, and bring to light the behavior of our citizens, which contributes to the increase of these unwanted inhabitants.

Another potential solution that might introduce controversy is banning eating on the subway, or establishing a fee for it, a fee that is equal to the fare. This would not be a direct ban, but to a large extent it would play the same role.

One other obvious solution is to require a better job from the Transit Maintenance Crew, expand this department, and increase the funds for better, new, and cleaner supplies. Perhaps every 24 hours the Transit Maintenance Crew could not merely pick up garbage, but also wash the platforms thoroughly. This in the long term could create more jobs.

Create a better system for littering throughout the city; citizens must seal their refuse before placing it in the cans.

In a comment on Senator Perkin’s survey, one citizen said, “I would like an experimental program to be conducted. Allow volunteers to have access to gloves, brooms and dustpans, to clean the platform while waiting for the train to arrive. I am sure there will be many who would participate.”

The city could certify a scientific research group to develop a chemical that could exterminate a large number of rats, and simultaneously be affordable. The government could then create teams of professionals to go to houses (with the citizens’ approval) to apply this extermination medicine.

Another anonymous citizen provided the idea of having a weekend shutdown for major extermination, with follow-ups and regular maintenance.

Upgrading the 100 years old transit system is another potential solution, placing strong lighting, painting the underground platforms in brighter colors, and implementing an eco-friendly cooling system. This will make New York City become the number one city in the world, and for a reason that can make all proud.

Solutions exist; the speed of their implementation must increase. The health concern is one that greatly endangers all. Rodent control is vital, the consequences would be too ghastly to discuss, for the danger is demonstrable and indisputable.

All must dig in, as Senator proclaimed, “YOU FEED THEM, YOU BREED THEM.”