The New York City Department of Sanitation is making progress in its war on rats, according to Commissioner Jessica Tisch.
A pilot project in Hamilton Heights that moved residential trash from bags on the curb to containers has resulted in a 68 percent decrease in rat sightings in the 10-block area of the neighborhood, the Department of Sanitation says. Tisch says that shows the city needs to move toward putting more trash in containers.
“We produce 24 million pounds of trash every day and historically those trash bags – a third of which are filled with food, which is also rat food – sits on our curbs,” Tisch said.
The Hamilton Heights pilot project, which also includes more frequent trash pickup, is costing the city $5.7 million. Although Hamilton Heights in Harlem is the first high-density residential neighborhood to move toward containerization of trash, the city has several other efforts underway, Tisch said.
In 2023, the city also began requiring food businesses, such as restaurants, bodegas, bars and delis to put their trash in bins. In March, new rules will go into effect that require all businesses to use containers. And next fall, all residential buildings with nine units or less will be required to use containers.
“So between what we’ve started in 2023, and the rules we’ve already announced for 2024, we think we’re making real progress on the war on rats in New York City,” Tisch said. “And the early indications, both from this residential pilot of fixed containers on the street and the commercial rules are really good.”
Mayor Eric Adams has made the war on rats a key platform of his administration. On the Upper East Side, a city councilwoman is pushing a program to pump carbon dioxide into burrows under tree pits.
Tisch pointed to new data from 2023 that show rat mitigation zones, neighborhoods that the city is targeting to reduce rat populations, throughout the city saw a 16 percent decrease in sightings. She also says the city received fewer rat complaints in 2023 than it has in 15 years.
“We are breaking a trend. So it’s not just that they are going down, it’s that they’re going down in the context of previous years where they’ve only gone up,” Tisch said.