Pols Fear Coming Rat Crisis
by Margarit Margaritov
October 5, 2010
With the recent layoff of 63 out of 84 of the city’s pest control workers to save $1.5 million, some local elected officials worry that a pest crisis is on the way.
“Pest control defines a civilized society. Cutting back on these valuable city workers will diminish the quality of life for all New Yorkers,” said City Councilmember Julissa Ferreras. “We cannot allow the front line in the war on pests to be ripped apart in the interest of saving a small amount of money.”
The cut comes at a time when rat sightings citywide have increased by 8 percent this year alone. Other officials like City Councilmember Daniel Dromm accuse the city of being reluctant to take measures to prevent it.
“Even though we held a press conference and demanded that funding be restored and the pest control workers be rehired, no action has been taken, which is unusual,” Dromm said. “We approached different departments in the city, but no one is willing to take responsibility for the layoff.”
Dromm, along with Councilmembers Jimmy Van Bramer and Ferreras, Senator Jose Peralta and officials from the union that represents pest control workers, held a press conference on Friday, September 24 to raise awareness about the issue.
They claim the 11 remaining city pest control workers, who work for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, cannot cover all public areas in the city: parks, railroad tracks and other areas where rats typically breed. There are an estimated 224 million rats in the city, or 28 rats for every person.
There have been more and more complaints about rat infestations from local businesses all over the five boroughs. When not properly controlled, rat populations increase and spread outside of public areas and into apartment buildings, restaurants and other businesses.
“The city needs to have enough pest control workers to effectively fight infestations in public areas,” Dromm said. “Private property owners hire exterminators to clean their own premises, but that cannot resolve the problem on the entire block or the whole neighborhood unless the city does its part.”
The city said it will save $1.5 million by reducing its pest control team. Dromm said that those same workers generated $6.3 million last year in fines. Rats are also carriers for numerous diseases including asthma – a big issue in the city already.
“Rats endanger the health and welfare of our residents,” said Van Bramer. “Pest control workers are crucial if we are to win the war against rodents. We can’t afford fewer exterminations, which will only bring more rats in our neighborhoods.”