UWS Zip Code Leads the City in Rat Complaints; O’Donnell Asks Adams to Step In


A rat grabs a drink at a local watering hole. Photo by Lisa Leshne.

Rodents are thriving on the Upper West Side, as evidenced by a deluge of rat complaints this year. In fact, the 10025 zip code ranks number one in the city for 311 calls about rat sightings, with more than 700, according to Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell. Citywide, rat complaints are up 30% this year versus 2019 levels. You can see recent rat complaints here.

The increase in rat complaints has been blamed on a few factors, including sanitation budget cuts and a change in rat behavior during the pandemic and then as the city has reopened.

O’Donnell is reaching out to incoming mayor Eric Adams to get more aggressive in combating rat infestations, sending a letter to Adams this week outlining his concerns. “As of now, rat reduction programs are underfunded, in limited geographies, and hamstrung by staff who are overburdened with other responsibilities,” he wrote.

See the full letter here.

NEWS | 49 comments | permalink
    1. ml says:

      Various things happening:
      Folks keep leaving their garbage like Starbucks cups, pizza boxes etc on top of overflowing trash cans. (Same thing in Central Park and Riverside – folks leave their garbage for someone else to pick up)

      Restaurant street sheds are a major factor in the rat problem – more garbage and sheds are a place for rats to nest.

      • Mary says:

        Agreed! Dining sheds have indeed caused more rats, not rocket science. No to permanent outdoor dining!

    2. Andrew says:

      When I look at the data via the link, and filter by This Year… it shows 2 other zip codes in Brooklyn with more sightings. So maybe this article meant to say number one Manhattan rather than the city?

      • LL says:

        Come now. Manhattan IS the city.

        In all seriousness this does not surprise me. I have seen rats not run away anymore when they see me. My dog doesn’t care anymore either

    3. Carol Jean Orito says:

      Rats rule and always have in most cities. Now 10019 is pretty bad by Manhattan Plaza. The bRats come out of the subway possibly less food down there. Rid the rats means people need to keep food off the ground.

    4. Neil says:

      Thank you so much Dan for your much needed leadership on this growing threat.
      Neil Berson
      Co-President
      West 90s Neighborhood Association

    5. Jsc says:

      Stop feeding the squirrels and birds! They do not need your help. In addition to endangering them by habituating them to humans, the excess seed, peanuts, and other foods are absolutely contributing to the rat population.

      • Dee says:

        Agreed!
        There are several women on the UWS who spread bird seed on our sidewalks on a daily basis.
        Birds don’t seem particularly interested in the bird seed, but the rats LOVE it.
        These women have been at it for years and nothing seems to deter them from their self-appointed rounds.
        Can anything be done to curb their behavior?

    6. I am a retired. Public Health Nurse. In past years Rat Control was considered a Public Health function. The DOH had a Rat Control division employing Public health professionals in Rat Contrl. Rats are clever mammals their main mission in life is survival of the species. This Division needs to be front and center on The DOH orgazitional chart. No outsourcing.
      Full time trained credentialed professionals. Who wants The Bubonic Plague to return and kill folks off? Get to work Mayor Adam’s!

    7. Barbara B says:

      I had written about this some time ago, before the pandemic and before it reached this level of infestation.
      The city REMOVED street trash cans on all avenues and streets not deemed “commercial”. Where there were four trash cans, only two remain. There previously was a can on each corner of an intersection. This is still the case on Broadway and Amsterdam, but not the case on West End, Riverside Drive or CPW.
      When i contacted Dept of Sanitation back then I was told that too many private homes were using the trash cans for household garbage. In my opinion garbage is garbage and by removing the cans they only forced a higher and overflowing condition at the remaining cans. There are more people out and about now. There are more people picnicking in the warm months. More take away food.
      Street cleaning has dwindled to two days a week (and they have not been seen anywhere in at least a month) The streets are disgusting. A half-eaten burger, a pizza crust, and wrappers with food remnants everywhere.
      I urge UWS residents to call 311, sanitation and local representatives to get them to react to this unhealthy situation.
      Add more trash cans (rat-proof ones). Encourage more buildings to sign on for compost collection. Bring street cleaning back to two days. Engage buildings to have staff to wash sidewalks and the street next to the curb.
      As there are so many vacant stores, there are no commercial tenants to maintain the sidewalk in front. This situation was very visible when last winter snow was rarely shoveled. Litter is not picked up. The landlord or building owner should be required to keep the sidewalks clean in their unrented spaces.
      Litter and trash begets more litter and trash.
      It is a sad state of affairs that NYC has come to this.

      • CJ Berk says:

        Thanks Barbara B. I have complained everywhere including Dept./Sanitation about the current owners of Fairway at 76th&Broadway (10023). They have taken over the storefront curb with empty pallets, old shopping carts,and store garbage etc. I Can only repeat: Fairway says they own our sidewalk. At night, you can spot rats crawling around. Sadly, it’s a result of the decaying UWS. Blocks of empty stores, wandering hostile homeless etc. Of course we have more rats. They seem to be the only living things that actually want to be on the Upper West Side now.

        • GFNY says:

          Leave the homeless out of this you ghoul – if you want to do something productive, sign your building and your neighbors up for the composting program and stop punching down on the less fortunate. Many of whom have lived here just as longer/longer than you

          • Mar says:

            Oh please.. The homeless leave their trash everywhere and up and move. Zero civility. It’s everyone’s else burden to clean up after them. I for one am sick of it.

      • js says:

        Barbara,
        I agree with many of your observations.
        But the West Side is a pretty affluent area with many educated residents.

        Surely, West Side residents could take more responsibility, be more mindful about leaving trash etc?
        (Garbage is not just from “out of area” individuals)

        There are few trash cans in Amsterdam and Stockholm, yet the streets are much cleaner…

        • sea. says:

          lol i watched NYC go from lockdown to opening. Trash was better during lockdown. Some neighborhoods were picking up some of the garbage by using Volunteers.. BUT LET’s get real. When restaraunts opened with nice weather… The slobs were visitors .. UGH. their garbage was all over

      • Beth says:

        In classifying areas as commercial or not commercial they failed to take into account this neighborhood’s many SROs and homeless shelters, which are in effect commercial buildings. In my neighborhood in 10025 there is significantly more garbage in cans on the street where there are shelters etc. than streets where there are not. My guess is that many of the residents don’t cook or have access to kitchens, because I regularly see residents putting take out bags into the street corner cans. Please don’t flame. This is a real observation. Streets with homeless shelters, SROs etc. need more garbage cans.

    8. Amy says:

      10025 is one of the most populated zip codes in NYC. If you look at it that way it makes sense they would have a high absolute number of complaints. Statistics are a funny thing. Still gross.

    9. Mary says:

      Dining sheds are the reason we have an increase in rats – not rocket science. One of a long list of reasons why we don’t need permanent outdoor dining. Call your council person and say no to permanent dining.

      • Jay says:

        Dining sheds are not the reason for this.

        Poor waste management by residents, businesses and the government is the reason.

        It’s about time we start using containerized trash receptacles in the city. Only then will the rats become manageable.

    10. Josh P. says:

      The number one food source for the rats is the piles of garbage left on the sidewalks every night. The only way to actually reduce the number of rats is to eliminate on street garbage. The city has started to roll out plans for containerized garbage pick up, but the implementation has been extremely slow. Get the garbage off the streets and watch the rats disappear.
      https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/13/nyregion/ny-garbage-recycling.html

    11. Michael H. Stearns says:

      Residents are putting household trash in the street baskets because the Sanitation Department is not enforcing the law against using those receptacles for household trash. In olden days, sanitation inspectors would check the baskets for household trash, open bags, find names and addresses on envelopes, and then issue summonses. Apparently, the city does not care enough to seek this source of additional revenue and help keep streets cleaner and less welcoming to rodents. Not to mention that the sanitation workers are too lazy to empty the baskets more often.

    12. Lynn says:

      Re: Not emptying garbage cans, in 10025, the cans are overflowing, but I was in 10028 today on the east side, and the garbage cans were 1/4 full!

      • Lisa says:

        Great point. I’ve also noticed that the East side doesn’t have our trash problem (or our vagrant problem).

      • Cato says:

        — “in 10028 today on the east side, and the garbage cans were 1/4 full!”

        Yes, but on the *West* Side those same cans would be called 3/4 empty.

    13. Dan says:

      We need our feral cats back.

    14. sugarqueen says:

      I would recommend attending the virtual class called Rat Academy provided by the city for landlords, supers and us wee folk who handle their own garbage. It’s informative and YES, stop feeding the ( as I call them) rats with wings…(birds), or the squirrels in the park. It adds to the rat’s food too. Rats only need one ounce of food a day to live well. Easy to find when people generously dump food, on the ground for dogs, birds and other cute animals.

    15. Mark Moore says:

      It’s possible we complain a lot AND there are a lot of rats around.

    16. js says:

      Restaurant sheds are a rat fiesta

    17. Bill says:

      Thx for your leadership Danny. BTW, this is a problem everywhere. I was in Battery Park City recently. Same as 10025.

    18. Dolores Hulick says:

      The NYC-DOH internet page for rats is
      https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/health/health-topics/rats.page
      and at the RAT PORTAL (scroll down) you may enter a local address & there are also posters available which are quite impressive.
      I have never seen so many rats, large rodents, in my lifetime on the upper West Side. The NYC-wide infestation is severe and every remedy should be utilized to combat the problem.

      • RAL says:

        wow that portal is scary. Seems that every public housing building has issues and Whole Foods on 97th??

    19. John A Molanphy says:

      OUTDOOR RESTAURANT SHEDS ARE CAUSING RAT INFESTATIONS. THE STREETS ARE NOT PROPERLY CLEANED AND NEITHER ARE THE SHEDS. I HAVE YET TO SEE ONE BEING CLEANED INSIDE. THESE SHEDS ARE A HAZARD TO COMMUNITY HEALTH. THE RESTAURANTS HAVE ENJOYED A FREE EXPANSION OF THEIR REAL ESTATE AND CITIZENS ARE SUBSIDIZING THEM.

    20. carl g silverman says:

      WSR, Ratzo Ritzo himself

    21. Weaver says:

      I hope something will be done about this. I see rats almost every single nite when I walk my dog. I live in 10024, so it appears the problem is more wisespread than I realized. Let’s keep the pressure on our elected officials!

    22. Gloria says:

      Bring back 2x a week alternate side parking. I drive my car and it will make parking more available and lead to cleaner streets.

      • Anne says:

        I totally agree with Gloria!
        If you require moving cars 2x /week, it won’t be so appealing to just keep a car in the city for the occasional country trip. Also they need to enforce the “no idling” law— it’s a pretty sweet deal to just sit in your car for 90 minutes once a week with the car running/heater (or AC) on chatting on phone or listening to SiriusXM. No one moves their cars— unless a sweeper actually arrives— even then there is no turnover of parking spaces. That makes it really hard for those who NEED to drive to work where there is not adequate public transportation option.

    23. Zed says:

      Putting out your garbage bags the night before a pickup should be illegal. Not only does it invite rats, it allows certain folks to rip the bags open looking for 5 cent cans. After their forensic investigation is done, the bag’s totally compromised and there’s garbage everywhere. Buildings that do this should be fined $500 per incident.

      It’s not hard. Pickup is between 8 and 9 a.m. Get up early and put your bags out at 7:30.

      • Lisa says:

        Zed this makes too much sense 🙂

      • UWSrrrrrr says:

        The city allows bags to be put out from 4pm onward. Also, our block’s pickup times vary but are usually 2am-7am. So your timing plan does not work legally or for all blocks.

        I agree that the bags are the issue — they are easily chewed through. The city needs to require buildings to put garbage out ONLY in lidded bins. That is the only way to stop the rats from curbside dining.

    24. Julia says:

      Im counting on incoming Mayor Eric Adams to do something sbout rats in NYC. I have seen rats in Inwood at night that are the size of cats!

    25. Steevie says:

      I don’t see rats on the #1 train subway tracks anymore. I used to see them regularly. I wonder if this is because people are eating less in the subway due to the pandemic or for some other reason.

    26. William Pearlman says:

      If it’s the UWS it must be Trump’s fault

    27. Mimi says:

      I love our neighborhood but restaurants are big contributors to the rat problem. The sidewalks between 103 and 108 always have food residue/garbage outsider. They need to be forced to clean up or be fined. They need to have better ways to dispose of the food garbage. No Oily
      Sidewalks please! rats on 107 are huge because of the restaurants nearby.

    28. Alex says:

      the “deluge of rat complaints” might be due to the fact that the UWS has more *complainers*, not just (more) rats (for evidence of this, see comments above)

    29. K. Roberts says:

      The explosion in the number of rats on the UWS is an emergency. As a long-term resident, I have never seen anything like this. It is urgent that the City inspect vacant stores and construction sites, conduct rat abatement where necessary and bill the property owners.

    30. Edward G. says:

      Such a shame.

    31. Edward G. says:

      Agreed – stop feeding pigeons.

    32. kate says:

      I had a friend visit last week and found myself apologizing for how dirty the sidewalks were, and zig zagged across streets with her to avoid walking past the areas I always see rats (Cafe Leyla, for example). There are obvious solutions alive in the city since the Upper East is much cleaner than our neighborhood.

    33. Alexia Anders says:

      Reported numerous rat sightings on the 311 app. Zero action on the filings for almost a year, and then suddenly they were all resolved.

      Contacted Helen Rosenthal in the past about the rat epidemic, she didn’t even bother to respond.

      It is a good day when BdB and HR finally disappear from NYC politics.