By Scott Etkin
Here are two words that you never want to hear at a Community Board 7 meeting: “Rat reservoir.”
Unfortunately, that’s how Caroline Bragdon, director of neighborhood interventions and pest control at New York City’s Department of Health, characterized parts of the Upper West Side. “Manhattan Valley is still considered what we call a ‘rat reservoir,’ meaning that it has a higher level of rat activity than the surrounding areas,” she said at a Community Board 7 Parks & Environment Committee meeting this week.
On a Zoom call, Bragdon provided an update about the agency’s ongoing efforts to combat the city’s rat population, and explained what restaurants and landlords in particular need to do to abate the problem.
Bragdon gave detailed information about the extent of complaints on the Upper West Side. Certain streets in the neighborhood have been identified as hot spots. For example, since January 2023 there have been numerous failed inspections in the following corridors:
|Location||Initial Inspections||Follow-up Compliance Inspections||Extermination Visits|
|Broadway from 103rd Street to 106th Street||19 initial inspections (14 failed)||4 follow-up visits (2 failed)||21|
|102nd Street from West End to Broadway||8 initial inspections (7 failed)||2 follow-up visits (2 failed)||10|
|79th Street from Broadway to Amsterdam||23 initial visits (13 failed)||6 follow-up visits (5 failed)||22|
|71st Street from Broadway to Columbus||6 initial inspections (4 failed)||4 follow-up visits (4 failed)||3|
The best way for concerned citizens to keep track of the Department of Health’s inspections is through the Rat Information Portal, an interactive map showing all the properties that have been inspected over the past six months and the results of those inspections.
“Because we go back and we’re continuously doing new inspections, you’re going to see a different map every day,” said Bragdon. “We really want people to go to the Rat Portal and see results, because we get so many inquiries asking about inspection results and we want people to know, they’re available online.”
Outdoor dining structures are major factors of the rat problem. Rats have been found to nest underneath or alongside the structures, where it is very difficult to manage them. “There’s no way to control a rat problem once it’s underneath a dining structure unless you take down the dining structure,” Bragdon said.
She advised people who see rat activity in dining structures to call 3-1-1, which should lead to an inspection by the Department of Transportation (DOT). Since not all restaurant owners take down structures with rat problems, the Department of Health is offering training — in partnership with DOT and Small Business Services — to teach them what to do to manage the problem.
In addition to cleaning around and below the structures every day, Bragdon said restaurants must keep their garbage in a container or only put it out on the street right before it is collected.
Dining structures that are built next to sidewalk tree planters are especially troublesome, because the dirt creates a hospitable environment for rats.
“Tree pits are a big problem on the Upper West Side,” she said. “Part of the reason is there are beautiful, old, established trees. As they mature, their roots systems grow and they lift up the sidewalk, which creates a lot of hollow voids, and this is what rats love to build their nests in.”
Bragdon has been working with the team at DOT responsible for the permanent plan for outdoor dining. She expects the new plan, which will roll out in the fall or spring of next year, to “look very different than what we have now.”
In the meantime, the Department of Health is making an effort to expand the outreach of its “Rat Academy” trainings, which teach rat-control techniques to not only landlords, property managers, and businesses, but also tenants, tree pit stewards, and community organizations.
Over the years, the agency has run hundreds of co-sponsored Rat Academy events, both in-person and virtual, including several on the UWS. Register here for the following upcoming events:
- May 24th (3:00 to 5:00pm);
- May 31st (5:30 to 7:30pm); and
- June 8th (5:00 to 7:00pm).
“We ask a community host to sponsor and recruit community members to come to the event, and then we tailor [the training],” she said. The agency’s outreach team is also available to share information at community events this summer. These visits can be arranged by contacting email@example.com.
You can watch the full recording of Ms. Bragdon’s presentation at the link.
The Covid restaurant street sheds are rat resorts
Maybe writing here will generate more attention than when I attempted to email the new “Rat Czar”. Every single morning between 6:30-7 am on the east side of Amsterdam between 107th and 108th are three disgusting piles of garbage, either spilling out of useless (except to rats) plastic bags, or more often just in piles right on the sidewalk. Shrimp shells and pieces of vegetables are literally all over the place near the curb outside of Happy Hot Hunan, as well as slightly south of that spot, and also by the litter can on the SE corner of 108th and Amsterdam. Every. Single. Morning. The rats running near these piles are numerous and often. Sometimes when I walk by my child will point out that a rat is running towards and under the pull down grate of Happy Hot Hunan. 311 has not been helpful re us naming exact locations. What to do?We see it all the time. The sanitation workers are seeing it too, we asked them. Other people walking on that block know all about it. Even more times than we dodge the rats running around various dining sheds on Broadway and Amsterdam in the 100’s in the mornings (and there are a lot of those times), we predictably see rats on this specific block. Hello, rat czar????
If you make a complaint through 311, they will come out to inspect within 7 days.
They are not inspecting at 6 am…and soon after that it’s all swept away (while the smart nocturnal rats sleep the good sleep with their full tummies and well-fed babies) only to start again the next night/day.
Keep your garbage covered and bagged. Don’t put out until the last minute. Get rid of restaurant sheds
Even better–put garbage out in cans with tight fitting lids. Have enough cans to hold your garbage so the cans do not overflow.
My dog loves hunting rats and she is very good at it (she is a rescue pit.)
There is a club in Brooklyn comprised of terrier owners who literally go rat hunting. It’s not only good for the neighborhood in ridding of the pestilence, it’s great for the dogs also. Gets them out of their tiny apartments, socializing, and doing what feels natural for them.
My pit doesn’t get along with other dogs, otherwise I’d consider joining something similar on the UWS. But I highly recommend terrier owners doing something similar here. You can reach out to the Brooklyn club for guidance. They are on Facebook and called RATS.
There’s no mention of overflowing trash receptacles. On the corner of 104 and Broadway, the standard wire container is completely inadequate. It’s always full and surrounded by food trash.
There’s a McDonald’s on that block, and food trash left by its patrons is a major rat attractant. At night, they stream up out of the sewer grate and dig in.
We need those large, green, rat-proof bins on hot-spot corners. Clearly the city knows which they are.
Also Broadway between 110th and 111th, both sides but mostly the east side. Trash always overflowing.
Close ALL the restaurant sheds!!! We got along before them and we can get along without them.
Another problem are the people feeding the pigeons which is a come-get-it-attraction for rats. I’ve called 311 and was told nothing much can be done about it. There’s no law prohibiting feeding pigeons or rats. UGH!
We need a law against feeding pigeons. It’s time. I am shocked at how many people do this (almost all women, by the way).
I’m with you on this. It’s a problem. There are laws on the books, like littering laws. Enforcement by DOH is next to nothing. I’ve tried.
Instead, i’m focused on spreading awareness to the neighboring buildings on my block about the rat problems.
NYC has no laws against feeding birds, squirrels, or other animals on pubic streets. Only place it is illegal (if you could call it that) is in certain areas of NYC parks.
Persons scattering bird seed or other food for pigeons on NYC streets/sidewalks can be charged with violating NYC’s laws on littering. Those are enforced by DSNY inspectors who must observe person actively littering (scatting birdseed) in order to write a summons for violation.
As easy as a song.
There will be rats until as long as we dump all of our garbage on the sidewalk every night. Get the trash off the sidewalks and into containers and you remove their food.
Why people are focused on the restaurant sheds and not the bags of garbage sitting next to them every night.
I attended a DOHMH Rat Academy Training a few years ago and can recommend it enthusiastically to anyone concerned about rats in their neighborhood. I found it enlightening and came away realizing that we residents are the first line of attack on the problem. There’s a lot we can do on our own blocks and it sure beats the frustration of repeated 311 calls that go unanswered…or waiting for the Mayor to fix it someday.
In order to get the rat situation under control we need to have people stop feeding the pigeons particularly on the mall on 95 and 96 streets and Broadway. Every day there are people with bags of food feeding pigeons from 9am -4pm. Thee is a law in the city against feeding birds but the police who monitor the subway entrances turn their heads or busy on their phones.
I’d like to add West 73rd St to the rat reservoir list. Recently I rode my bike down West 73 just between Columbus and Amsterdam and counted 14 flat rats dead in the street. I even took photos. They disintegrate into the cement and tar. As and artist this is fascinating but as a resident this is yucky!!
Thanks for listening….
If you go to the live portal,
many of the large blocks of uws failed inspection (pink areas) are public schools and NYCHA housing. What is the city doing to protect children and other vulnerable populations? There are rodents in classrooms and cafeterias. Schools have scaffolding and ongoing construction for years. NYCHA lacks collection dumpsters and has mountains of sidewalk refuse and overflowing sidewalk bins. The city has neglected its own properties for years, and now is trying to scapegoat dining sheds, when at least restaurants have periodic inspections and standards unlike apparently DOE and NYCHA. Yes sheds can contribute to the problem but they are also a way for the city to deflect blame. The uws rat problem existed long before the sheds and will persist long after the sheds are gone unless the city takes basic rodent control measures on its own properties.
There is a method using non-toxic means to kill rats overnight: it was developed by Steven Tvedten, author of The Best Control (free on the Internet) but it takes more that the space allowed here. If you are interested, email me and I’ll send you a formula. Steve believed in working with a pest’s own proclivities: this one involves the fact that rats love beer! firstname.lastname@example.org
The restaurant sheds have definitely worsened the rat problem.
This is especially an issue in Greenwich Village, East Village and Lower East Side with narrow streets.
My brother in law was a fan of restaurant sheds – until his niece had the misfortune of moving into an apartment above a restaurant shed. My brother in law is now completely against restaurant sheds
Riverside drive next to the park between 86 and 89 is another hotspot. This spring my dog and I have noticed lots of new small rats ready to fatten up on overflowing trash in the definitely not rat proof trash cans.
I am all for outdoor dining but not in the street in restaurant sheds because of the rat and garbage problems. Lets go back to the old fashioned kind of dining on the street with no sheds or permanent structures and 8 feet of side walk available for people to walk on.
I can’t believe 108th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam is not on this list. Garbage is not properly bagged in front of some buildings and rats are abundant, both live and squished in the road. There is also a public school on this block! I’ve seen large rats while biking down this block in broad daylight. When they’re out during the day you know you’ve got a problem.
Yes, was in danger of running over the 100-word limit, as I definitely would have if I had named all the locations where I see them. We also see them on that block, and for the record, I wasn’t even mentioning the dead (often flat) ones which we are sadly used to at this point, just the living ones, and all during daytime hours. We’ve lived here for decades and although we have an innate understanding that all(!) kinds of creatures are consistently out at night – the city that never sleeps, right? – it is only in the last several years that we are assured of seeing them in the daylight hours.
Re: “Yes sheds can contribute to the problem but they are also a way for the city to deflect blame. ”
DEFINITELY!! A brief daytime stroll north from W. 69th on Columbus ( home to many dining sheds), reveals that these sheds are FLUSH against the roadway, which seems to make it impossible for even the thinnest rat to burrow beneath.
But black-plastic bags provide not only food but also a protected place in which to dine, at least until the garbage truck arrives.
As I have mentioned in this column previously, the sanitation workers will actually make a point of waiting for us to walk past the garbage piles before they lift the bags in order to let us through pre-scurrying. They tell us this, and believe me, we thank them! The day to day people on the ground know exactly where the rats are. If the rat czar is diligent, she will ask for their input. Who better to know?!
One last comment on this particular article:
In the very first chart (Locations/Inspections) at the top of this article, I don’t even understand what is supposed to be shown here. The number of failed inspections in the Initial Inspections column, second from left, clearly shows, in 3 out of 4 locations, a lower number— sometimes a LOT lower— of follow-up inspections, as compared to the original number of failed inspections. Unless we are to believe that the follow up number is PER failed inspection (which cynical me somehow doubts) I am not really sure how this chart is supposed to inspire any kind of confidence.
Something needs to be done about the guy who dumps day old bagels from Absolute Bagels on Broadway between 103 & 110th Street every day to feed the pigeons. He also dumps feed in front of Ascension Church on 107th St daily. The rats come & feast on whatever the birds leave behind.
What about my neighbors who constantly feed pigeons? I’m pretty sure that contributes to my streets rat problem.
We need more predators that enjoy rat meat. Owls, hawks, etc. Can’t the city import some birds that could live on rooftops and tall trees?
The fix is simple , , , bring back aluminum/metal cans for all residential and commercial refuse! But no! lets spend more money on a government position to determine this, 🙂