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Rat population on the rise in NYC with worries of outdoor dining as the culprit

New York City has seen a rise in rats spotted this year, with some people pointing to outdoor dining as a possible cause to the problem.

News 12 Staff

Aug 20, 2022, 2:29 AM

Updated 673 days ago

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New York City has seen a rise in rats spotted this year, with some people pointing to outdoor dining as a possible cause to the problem. 
According to city data, there were as many rat sightings this year as there were in 2019 and 2020 combined.  
Just this July, there were more than 16,000 reported rat sightings. That number is the average for both 2019 and 2020. 
“People may be frustrated calling in the same complaint over and over again. So, I wouldn't look at the volume of 311 complaints to estimate the population of rats in New York City,” said Caroline Bragdon, director of neighborhood interventions for pest control at NYC’s Department of Health. “What we do see is that more properties are failing inspections, which means we genuinely think there is an increase of rat activity coming out of the pandemic." 
Rats reproduce quickly – each rat litter ranges from six to 20 babies, with pregnancy only lasting three weeks.  
A 2014 study found that more rats are found near public spaces, and city residents like Shannon Phipps worry an outdoor dining shed is a perfect habitat. It’s one of the many reasons she’s joining dozens of people in suing the city to remove outdoor dining.  
"We should be treated as community partners and not just patrons to a restaurant,” said Phipps.  
The lawsuit says the temporary outdoor restaurant program is illegal because there is “no longer viable ground of a ‘public health emergency’.”
While Mayor Eric Adams recently declared to tear down abandoned sheds, he’s made it clear he wants to make outdoor dining a permanent staple in New York City.  
The city’s health department provides pest control education like the “Rat Academy,” but they are not able to directly intervene with any rat problems connected to outdoor dining.   


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