Ratcheting up the war on rats: A team effort

A classic shot of a Tompkins Square Park rat by the late Bob Arihood taken during the height of the summer of “Ratstravaganza.” Photo by Bob Arihood

BY CARLINA RIVERA | Rats are spreading faster in New York City than the “pizza rat” that spread across social media in 2015. And while we New Yorkers may begrudgingly accept these unwelcome neighbors as part of life in the city, the rat population isn’t something we should just dismiss out of hand.

In fact, the city’s Health Department was forced to step in and implement more serious measures for reducing the rat population earlier this year, after one person died and two others became severely ill in the Bronx from a rare disease transmitted by rats.

As a candidate for City Council District 2, I commit, if elected, to securing the resources necessary to cut the massive rat population in our district – particularly around Tompkins Square Park and the East Village – and restore public health benefits, especially for our low-income residents, who for too long have gone ignored in our homes and in our district.

In fact, I worked on a long-delayed piece of legislation, Intro 385, which would finally codify pest abatement in our homes in a meaningful and impactful way.

I will also work with the city’s Parks Department and the Department of Sanitation to implement rules that lead to cleaner and safer streets and homes for all residents, regardless if you live in Gramercy or the Baruch Houses on the Lower East Side.

In addition, we must implement better litter behavior and garbage disposal throughout our neighborhoods. I realize some of these practices are left to the discretion of many landlords when it comes to residential trash, and I will do what I can to implement practical changes and enforce sensible sanitation practices.

As councilwoman, there is only so much that I can do in City Hall to improve our communities. I need residents of Council District 2 to do their part, as well. That means we must stop feeding pigeons and squirrels in our public parks, where many rats reside and live off of our leftover scraps, and commit to a public landscape that keeps in mind the flora and fauna of our local ecosystem.

We must make these changes because the rodent problem doesn’t stop at our front door. When it comes to the terrible effects rats and other pests are having on those living in inadequately protected housing, I can speak from experience. At Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), I worked as an advocate for all District 2 residents trying to maintain standard and acceptable living conditions, and found that very often pests and rats, and intentional neglect of proper pest abatement, were just some of the tools used to force longtime residents out of their homes.

Even to this day, I still meet many residents who are forced to deal night in and night out with the sound of rats in their walls and beneath their apartments’ floorboards. These unhealthy conditions, significantly worse in public housing and near our parks, can cause New Yorkers to feel like they are living in two different worlds just blocks or buildings apart.

But we live in the 21st century, in the greatest city on the planet, and there is no reason why any person should have to accept conditions like these. And we won’t. Through advocacy, we recently earned a new, targeted $32 million rat-reduction investment from the Mayor’s Office for our communities, and though overdue, it is a step in the right direction.

When I am elected, I will use progressive principles to help close the gap in these disparities and do more to tackle this public-health issue. Through changes like this and fair allocation of resources, we start to achieve equity. No child should suffer because of conditions at home, and all residents will contribute more if they feel good about where they live.

 

Rivera is the Democratic candidate for City Council District 2 (East Village, Gramercy Park, Kips Bay, Flatiron, Lower East Side, Murray Hill and Rose Hill) in the Nov. 7 general election. You can find her on Twitter @CarlinaRivera and at carlinarivera.nyc. 

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