Rat-Pocalypse Now: The Upper West Side Continues to Lead the City in Rat Complaints

The New York Times found out today about the growing rat army assembling in the city’s dark spaces, years after we started chronicling the proliferation of our furry neighbors. A story headlined “Rats Are Taking Over New York City” explained the scale of the issue, which is apparently unprecedented — or at least we’re complaining about it more.

In fact, the Upper West Side is the epicenter of the problem, with the most complaints out of any neighborhood. We were also number one for rat complaints last year, so we’re like the Tom Brady of rats. All we do is win. This map shows all the rat complaints, and can be searched by zip code.

The article points to gentrification — and particularly new construction — as a big reason behind the rat boom.

The article also referenced rats rummaging through Upper West Side playgrounds, an apparent reference to our article in 2017 that led to the mayor earmarking money for rat eradication in the area. It also talked about rats chewing through car wires, another phenomenon we’ve explored.

So, what’s the verdict, Upper West Side? Is the rat-control working, or are we as ratty as ever?

NEWS | 76 comments | permalink
    1. Anonymous says:

      I think part of the problem may be the woman who goes every single day to Riverside park with an immense wheeled bag of birdseed and scatters it all over the ground between w. 83rd and the Boat Basin along the river. There are regulations against it, but she’s not going to stop unless the police make her. I wish they would. Pigeons are perfectly capable of finding their own meals, and the rats eat the leftovers.

      • t says:

        Feed a Pigeon = Breed a Rat

      • Terry says:

        I really don’t see hordes of rats down on the Promenade in Riverside Park– despite this woman’s (rather annoying) birdseed feedings. I see more rats in areas with human food discards– like playgrounds where kids’ snacks are just scattered on the grounds. All those Cheerios, etc. are just irresistible to rats!

      • B.B. says:

        We touched upon this before several months ago in a similar thread.

        Scattering birdseed is not a criminal offense, but “littering” which falls under DSNY police jurisdiction. Thus calling NYPD and or expecting them to do anything about these deluded persons who feed birds won’t help.

        It isn’t illegal to feed birds in NYC. Someone can be ticketed for creating unsanitary conditions, but again that is a DSNY matter, not NYPD.

        This being said city is moving to ban feeding birds and squirrels in city parks. But the fine is rather puny ($50) do don’t expect it to be much of a deterrent.

        https://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2019/03/20/protesters-slam-proposed-nyc-parks-rule-change-to-stop-feeding-birds-squirrels

    2. Steve Reiness says:

      If it’s not exploding penguins, then I really don’t mind …

    3. Roger Bilco says:

      If I don’t see at least 3 rats per block west of Broadway, I’m not in the Upper West Side.

      • Stuart says:

        What’s with this “West of Broadway” hatred? The other day, a frequent commenter said he never goes to West End Avenue. Granted, I used to see rodents over 10 years ago near what became Riverside Blvd around 60th Street around the time the sun came up. But anywhere (east or west of Broadway) someone leaves thown out edibles is just asking for critters to arrive.

        • dannyboy says:

          That “frequent commenter [who] said he never goes to West End Avenue” doesn’t get out much.

    4. FrizzUWS says:

      Typhus is coming. I love this liberal city!

      • The Rafster says:

        Yes- its the Liberals ! There should be a limit to
        “diversity “ damn it !

        • Kaz says:

          Hey WSR, are you going to moderate Rafster’s hateful garbage comment?

          • Carol says:

            Sorry if the prior comment was offensive to you. It is hard sometimes to distinguish between irony and sincerity. Doing our best.

            • Kaz says:

              I know it’s a hard job. I appreciate you!

            • npk says:

              That comment about diversity and liberals was not hard to distinguish what Rafster was saying. This was a right wing racist comment and should be called what it is!

            • UWS_lifer says:

              I certainly hope we are not going to censor comments and threaten free speech and expression due to the hypersensitivity of the few.

              Sticks and Stones, people! These are just words…they can’t hurt you. Open your minds and stop with this ‘outrage culture’ nonsense.

              Remember, this is America. People have the right to say stupid stuff you don’t agree with.

          • UWSHebrew says:

            WSR does not print 70% of the comments I submit.

          • PedestrianJustice says:

            WSR was very clear in its Springtime PSA post that it was going to moderate comments and remove blatant attacks, irrelevant commentary, jousting between commenters that does not further the understanding of the larger audience, and anything else WSR deems inappropriate.

            Commenting here is a privilege not a right. And I appreciate everything WSR is doing to keep things civil.

            • Dissident says:

              “..blatant attacks, irrelevant commentary, jousting between commenters…”

              Into which of those categories would you place the gratuitous reply to UWS Hebrew posted by Ken (May 23, 11:10 AM) that appears just above your post?

          • Jen says:

            Better yet, why don’t we have a list of approved subjects and words we can use in this forum and shame and label everyone who doesn’t do it.

            Being nasty is one thing, freedom of speech is a totally differently concept. I’m a liberals and I didn’t take offense by the above post. I don’t agree with it, but it didn’t instigate hatred, etc

            Excessive touchiness and political correctness is killing US politics. And we will get another 4 years of Trump if we continue in this despicable manner.

            • T says:

              Agreed – I can’t believe how sensitive some of you are. That comment could also be sarcasm, I can’t tell from reading it. Today’s liberals are all about censorship and claim to love diversity except when it involves thought. I would vote to keep freedom of speech here for the most part rather than have the thought police all up in a tizzy about nothing.

            • dannyboy says:

              Mr T, You lost me at: “Today’s liberals are all…”

              How’s about progressives?

              Not that I have a dog in this.

    5. Marcia says:

      People on UWS continue to feed the birds therefore providing the rats a free meal! Garbage cans are overflowing because the sanitation department doesn’t empty them frequently enough, providing more access to food. Rat proof garbage cans aren’t anywhere to be seen. No surprise we have a major problem

    6. Cara says:

      The real solution to the rat problem is getting our food waste off the streets… brown bin our food scraps so the rats don’t feast off our trash! Demand the DSNY organics collection program is expanded!!

    7. Lis Anderson says:

      Also, many moons ago, the feral cats were rounded up and taken away.

      Subways plus water flowing in underground brook like streams to Cental Park adds to their having escape routes to an excellent CP home!

      • B.B. says:

        There was a story in NYT awhile ago basically saying cats (feral or otherwise) are no match for rats.

        In an one on one situation a cat might have the upper hand. But one cat against several rats is one dead feline.

        Cats tend to be loners in the wild. They’ll come together perhaps in loose communities, but they don’t hunt or whatever in packs. Cats also only hunt for food, thus once fed they likely aren’t going to bother with any more rats or mice for time being.

        Finally cats have been preying upon rodents since both were created. Thus rats know very well when their are predators in area and take proper precautions. As in all such situations the weak, sick, young and unlucky are first to be picked off. Dominate and more intelligent rats will live on and more importantly breed.

        It is often assumed because rodent sightings go down when felines are present that they have totally gone. Not true; rats at least have simply learned to avoid cats as any preyed upon creature would.

        Man is the only animal that will totally eliminate creatures in any given area. Mother Nature OTOH always strives for a balance.

    8. B.B. says:

      New York City hasn’t had a good “real” winter in many years, and might not again in future if things continue as in past. By this one means four, eight or more weeks of prolonged temps < 32F.

      This is important because rats and mice will continue breeding long as temps remain above freezing. Several years ago now we had a really cold winter that saw many weeks of frigid to freezing temps, and the rat/mice population decreased as a result.

      Food (sadly) rats/mice can find plenty of, especially since city stopped requiring metal cans with tight fitting lids, and allowed trash to be placed in plastic bags.

      However as NYT piece makes clear; all this constant construction all over Manhattan isn't helping things vermin wise.

      When you start demolishing sixty, seventy, one hundred (or more) old buildings, and or start digging up earth, you displace rodents. The Norway rat is a burrowing animal. Excavation of ground disturbs their burrows/nests and flushes them out to seek new harborage.

    9. MikeDNYC says:

      The rats eat car ignition wires only in the winter. You park on the street when it’s freezing outside and your hot engine block is a nice warm bed for our furry frenemies.
      I’ve swept rat droppings off the top of my engine block too many times to count.
      Two winters ago when my car was difficult to start I investigated under the hood and discovered a nick in a wire that was almost surely a bite.
      No problem in the summer though.

    10. Pedestrian says:

      The administration doesn’t enforce rules about rat control relating to demolition and development. It doesn’t pick up garbage and it allows trash cans on side walks to over flow for days. It doesn’t clean the streets and it ignores its basic responsibilities as a municipal government because the Mayor and council members would rather argue about national issues or ban fur!

      Keeping a city clean isn’t rocket science but it takes working, planning and attention. None of our local politicians are interested in city maintence because there isn’t any money in it…no big donors, no photo ops.
      Voters need to stand up and say enough.

      It’s time for City Government to kfocus on the City and make it a comfortable place to live and work not one where one must ignore the filth and hope someone will do something. They won’t until voters make it clear that they will lose their seats and their future in politics unless there is clear and unambiguous improvement.

      • jules says:

        You nailed it!! The UWS is a dump these days.. Every inch of the sidewalks, filthy. What happened to storefronts having to wash down the sidewalks in front of the buildings? There’s more garbage in bags than there’s ever been and yet the sanitation department don’t pick it up quickly? Why? Take-out food-chains; a massive implosion of trash thrown all over the streets and subways from discarded containers with chucks of pizza still enclosed. …(They’ve got wonderful people sweeping up the trash on platforms now (Love you Andy Byford, MTA president who hates seeing this!!) They’re trying to tell us that more tourists in our town is a good thing? It brings in much needed funds … For what!?

        • Some "Truthiness" Please ! says:

          Baseless generalizations ??
          Fact-Free allegations without one bit of proof.
          Opinions offered as hard-facts.

          Things down here on the Lower-Upper West Side certainly DON’T fit your dismal description.

      • dannyboy says:

        Pedestrian, you nailed it with: “The administration doesn’t enforce rules about rat control relating to demolition and development.”

        Did anyone else commenting read the NYT article?

    11. Pat says:

      I doubt that the UWS has the most rats – we’re just much more likely to lodge complaints – in so many ways….

      • Leon says:

        You beat me to it – I agree 100%. People around here just like to complain – WSR is proof. There definitely are some serious rat issues on the UWS but we also are the least shy in complaining about such things.

    12. Rat A. Tooey says:

      To da Edita:
      About yer “Is the rat-control working, or are we as ratty as ever?”

      WHAT rat control!? Think youse tail-less, fur-less bipeds can control US! Har-har! In fact Hardy-har-har!!

      It sez here…a person can develop a cold 😳…ooops…sorry, that’s from Guys and Dolls…it sez here (on da Web) dat rats have been in Manhattan since it was a colony of them English guys.

      So me and me bruvvers is here to stay! It also sez dat us Norway rats (Vi er norske rotter!) can live on just 28 grams of food and water a day…altho’ we DO prefer more, so pleez keep droppin’ dem chikkun-wings on da subway trax!

    13. Beryl Silver says:

      Birdseed? These are high class rats. They scavenger for avocado shells.

    14. Anon says:

      My favorite rat sighting was a rat carrying a whole churro, approaching 72 on the bridle path. It was dusk and I’m not fast enough to get my phone out for a photo, but any time “pizza rat” is mentioned I think of our own “churro rat.”

    15. Marcia says:

      More classes by Rat Academy provided by the city! Loved it!! Great information and it’s for supers, landlords and just citizens. It only takes 1 ounce of food for a rat to survive daily! Too easy for them! Yes, stop feeding the birds and remove overflowing non rat proof garbage cans. We can do Better!

    16. John says:

      Rats were here first and they are part of the green deal so don’t be a hate monger.

    17. LKlA says:

      Yet another example of the utter decay in overall quality of life in NYC under the current mayor.

      Dog poop, homeless, rats, subways delays, potholes, broken sidewalks, noise, garbage…

      All while taxes, tolls, fees and tickets continue to increase.

      • Stuart says:

        I am no fan of the current mayor, but the problems you mention (especially dog poop) have been around for decades. Do you miss the squeegee men?

        • LKLA says:

          There are degrees to everything in life and all those problems – along with just about all others – have only worsened under DeBlasio, who by the way promised (lectured) about how they were going to improve the quality of life for ALL NYers.

    18. NYWoman says:

      Lots of Restaurants PLUS not enough cans, (most current cans are rat-friendly) to match food waste volume [which should dictate the number of cans] PLUS location book-ended by a major river and Central Park PLUS Pre-war buildings hole-ier than swiss cheese PLUS water main and electric work for years…. PLUS new construction. All of the above but #1? Lack of rat proof trash receptacles in the most popular restaurant district, with take out AND outdoor dining, in Manhattan.

    19. Juan says:

      I saw a rat drinking a Pina colada at Trader Vic’s and his hair was perfect.

    20. AC says:

      Bring back metal garbage cans; stop the planting of trees every 10 feet on sidewalks (their underground roots serves as tunnels); and you’ll have a better control of the rat population!

      • Amy says:

        Tree roots do NOT serve as tunnels for rats. Rather, tree beds with the old railroad ties, which rats chew through, harbor rats. The Parks Dept. gives away approximately a half million daffodil bulbs per year, in part because they are poisonous to rats, for planting in tree beds and elsewhere. http://www.ny4p.org/the-daffodil-project

        • AC says:

          Amy, LOL – not the roots themselves, but the cavities they create underground.

          • Amy says:

            Adding trees in urban environments does not lead to rats. We need more trees and larger tree beds to handle increased storm run off and absorb CO2 to mitigate climate change. Look at the work of The Nature Conservancy in cities.

            The rat problem in tree beds occurs when the beds are raised rather than razed — e.g. with railroad ties — and, yes, rats can can burrow among raised roots.

            The Parks Dept. Tree Trust expands and, to the extent possible, razes the beds so that the tree roots grow into the ground rather than up (where the soil is too tightly packed for rats to burrow). My block worked with them several years ago to do this with all of our tree beds. And we planted 400+ bulbs. We didn’t do this because of the rats but we haven’t had one since. NYers
            need to be educated that building up tree beds and creating mini-gardens is both bad for the trees and can harbor rats.

        • B.B. says:

          Daffodil bulbs along with many other members of narcissi plant family do contain poisons. However it is their unpleasant taste which often act as a repellant to consumption.

          While eating a large amount (in relation to body weight) of daffodil/narcissi bulbs may cause death, first likely affect would be feeling ill.

          Rats like many other rodents cannot regurgitate. Thus if they get “sick” will choke on their own vomit. Because of this rats are often weary of any new food at first. They will take nibbles, and if ill effects begin they associate with that particular food won’t go near it again (bait shyness). That is of course if the stuff does not trigger a strong enough illness that yes, they die choking on their own vomit.

    21. RatBestServedDead says:

      Definitely worst rat infestation on UWS in last 20 years. Used to see 1-2/year on our block, now it’s a few a day. Mild winter(s) didn’t help. They go through all garbage bags left out at night. We switched to mint-scented ones they apparently don’t like, but unless everyone takes action it just sends them to a different garbage pile. Most critical are restaurants – they should be required to use rat proof garbage bags/bins for anything containing food waste. And of course the city needs to step up their game.

    22. Doug says:

      Not a surprise. Another democrat/liberal controlled city that’s on the decline…following in the footsteps of Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore, Newark, St. Louis and the list can go on.

      • Jen says:

        Oh, I see. Democrats = rat population. Name a few cities, not towns, but major cosmopolitan cities, governed by GOP where’re no rats and vermin whatsoever. Or maybe GOP can handle those cities and leave it to the Dems?

        • Doug says:

          I just meant that in general that Democratically controlled cities tend to mean accelerated urban decay, the rats are just the by product of it that’s all.

          • Jen says:

            Seriously,
            Name a few cities, not towns, but major cosmopolitan cities, governed by GOP where’re no rats and vermin whatsoever.
            That’s all.

      • Stuart says:

        And there were no rats when Giuliani and (alleged Republican) Bloomberg were in office? Really?

        • Doug says:

          As I posted earlier, the more than normal amount of rats are just a by product of the urban decay that NYC is going through since its been under Democratic control. Of course NYC had rats back then, just not to the extent that we have now that’s all.

        • Gross says:

          Well, there were no rats under Giuliani and Bloomberg because they themselves were the rat kings.

    23. Ed Kurtzman says:

      How about making all buildings that pile up the garbage use rat repellent garbage bags. I saw them at Costco.

      • B.B. says:

        Those vermin repellant bags are not 100% successful. Exterminators and others have tested claims made by manufacturer and found while yes, some rats may avoid, but OTOH a determined rodent won’t be put off long (or at all).

        Those bags are based on the old wives tale that oils/scent of certain mints (usually peppermint) will deter rodents. Same sort of advice given that to get rid of rodents scatter cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil around an area. It *might* work, but then again soon as rats get used to the scent, that will be that.

        Also many trash bags of any sort are routinely opened and contents rifled through by “dumpster divers” or whoever else that goes through garbage bags. Once bags are opened and left that way, then any effect of “rodent repellant” is lost.

    24. Marsha says:

      About two weeks ago, a rat ran into the lobby of my building. Since we are undergoing an expensive condo conversion, I see it wasn’t reported.

      • dannyboy says:

        That is exactly what The New York Times article reported (although you wouldn’t know it here, based on the accusations that rat infestations are caused by Democrats, or trees every 10 feet, ot pigeon ladies).

        It’s the Gentrification! Read the NYT and try facts.

    25. Frances Montgomery says:

      the situation so terrible on 70th Street. the Sysnagogue at the corner of 70th and CPW is throwing garbage bags of left over food from social events several times a week into the empty lot behind the synagogue and the rats are calling all their relatives to come for dinner every night of the week!
      There is construction right across the street from the synagogue, where 101 CPW coop is doing structural work on their building. On that side of the street, there are two tree pits with huge rat holes that have been there for years now. the Coop has been told by the city report from a 311 call that there is not problem with rats.
      At 20 West 70th St, another facelife of a brownstone is generating additional rat activity and at 38 West 70th, a renovation is going on which has created three giant rat holes in their tree bed outside their door.
      At night, every night, I see rats running between houses and the street.

      Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday garbage is strewn all over the sidewalks from the rats opening up the garbage bags during the night before the pick up around 7AM.

      • B.B. says:

        When you see rats/mice use the city’s “rat portal” report to file a complaint: https://www1.nyc.gov/apps/311universalintake/form.htm?serviceName=DOHMH+Rat

        This is actually the same “form” 311 uses so you can just save some steps and aggravation.

        Keep and follow-up on the complaint number. City generally sends rat inspectors out during daytime hours to investigate complaints. Unless there is a heavy infestation rats normally are nocturnal creatures, so inspectors might not see any; but they are trained to look for evidence/signs.

        When filing a report give as much specific details as possible so inspectors know where to look. Just saying “corner of CPW and 70th” isn’t has helpful full as where exactly you see rats/mice going and coming from.

        If you have a block association get them involved. Also contact local city council member’s office and that of BP as well.

        When filing a complaint give a contact telephone number so inspectors can perhaps contact and tell when they are going to be out in field. This and try to be there when they do come out (or someone who can point out exactly where rat problems are….), so to ensure inspectors don’t miss.

        One of the gals who works in our office lives on UES and her block was infested with rats. This to point you didn’t dare go out after dusk, and they were building huge nests in tree bed. She and others filed numerous complaints using above link, and block association president pushed hard as well. City came out, saw what was going down, issued violations to certain buildings, then heavily baited. Problem was solved, well as much as a rat issue can be in NYC.

    26. Kenneth says:

      Here is another facet of the rat problem…
      The NYCHA Housing staff on West 90th Street (could they be the only ones?)uses the sidewalk to store their garbage. There are trash bags piled on the sidewalk 24 x 7 at 117 and 133 West 90th. Literally minutes after a DSNY pick-up, NYCHA employees are piling bags at the curb again – which remain there for the next 48 hours at minimum. Complaints Helen Rosenthal’s office are responded to advising that NYCHA is understaffed, has no room to store garbage inside and not under the authority of the City Council or community boards.

    27. B.B. says:

      City and in particular Manhattan began losing war on rats when building incinerators were outlawed, and switch was made to plastic bags instead of metal cans.

      Deal was that city would increase collection to three times per week so trash wouldn’t sit in or outside of buildings for more than one or two days. To some extent this has worked, others not so much.

      Many of these five to six story apartment buildings and or even larger tenement or other multi-family just do not have places to hold the huge amounts of waste (including food)that residents generate.

      You pass garbage areas/cans in front of buildings and you hear rats moving inside. This or you see them darting down stairs that lead to basement areas or alleys again going after garbage.

      Oddly have seen many rats along CPW from say 81st to 96th darting around flower beds/plantings of those grand apartment buildings.

    28. Kevin says:

      Ring side seats at the nightly Rat Races:

      Grab a bench seat just outside the 72nd st 1,2,3 subway stop (south of 72nd) around 9 pm. Within minutes you will hear a rustling in the low-lying vegetation behind you. Next, you will see an 8-inch long rat (tail length not included) come running under your feet toward a nearby piece of food garbage. Then a 180, and back into the greens.

      Every 3 minutes. All. Night. Long.

      • B.B. says:

        There are rats up and down the length of Broadway from about 72nd Street going north. Some areas are more visibly infested than others, but never the less…

        Was driving down Broadway late one night several years ago. In left lane going south preparing to make a turn and had to stop for red light. While waiting turned my head left to gaze over at the center park/plaza and several large rats were running around having the time of their lives.

        IIRC last time we had this discussion on WSR many locations Broadway were noted on NYC’s rat portal map has having heavy rodent problems.

        Besides those center park/plazas (including Verdi Square), where people leave tons of garbage daily. Subway is just underneath ground which provides harborage and source of food as well. Then there is the huge number of restaurants, shops, and other places that sell food who put out trash nightly.

        AS NYT piece notes UWS has a good number of underground streams and brooks. Norway rats prefer to live near or close to sources of water as they do have to drink.

        If you want to get a good idea how bad rat problem is on UWS, speak with building supers/porters. Especially those of the larger buildings including along CPW.

    29. People in the Upper West Side desperately need RatLite™, to at least save their CARS from chewed up engine wires. Check it out on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/RatLite/

      Best rat deterrent ever invented for car engine compartments!

    30. J says:

      This is clearly a significant and serious problem, no question. There are various related reasons, some more solveable than others.

      But regarding the issue of overflowing trash cans on sidewalks….
      is it truly too much to ask people to hold onto their Starbucks cups if a trash can is full? Not to stick a big empty pizza box in a trash can etc?

      BTW many of the “perpetrators” here are educated/affluent adults – not kids, etc, who don’t know better.

      Unbelievable to see these folks just pile on to overflowing trash cans….

      • dannyboy says:

        “BTW many of the “perpetrators” here are educated/affluent adults” – J

        Your observation applies to many anti-social acts.

      • B.B. says:

        After decades of pleading with people to put their waste in trash cans, now you want them to carry it home or with them because the things are full? How does that work?

        City needs to upgrade to larger containers, and or arrange for more frequent collection.

        As things stand outside of BIDs where those men in blue suits empty trash bins, others are only collected once a day. This usually is during evening or overnight hours.

        Along CPW in particular is a major tourist destination, not to mention people going into and out of Central Park.

        • J says:

          BB
          If trash cans are full and garbage is overflowing, yes I think folks can walk a block or two with their Starbucks cups or Joe and the Juice cup – and find an emptier trash receptacle.

          We do it, our kids are expected to do it.
          Not a hardship.
          A responsibility IMO and the least we can do for the neighborhood and environment.

          • B.B. says:

            So what happens when the next trash container is full? How far and long is one supposed to carry one’s trash?

            Have walked from 82nd and CPW down past 63rd and every single waste container was full and or over flowing. Keep in mind also DSNY has been on a tear lately actually removing trash cans, so it isn’t always easy to find another after passing one that is full.