As an Upper East Sider for 41 years, Ruth Gutman routinely takes her evening stroll through the neighborhood with her dog. But recently, Gutman has encountered other creatures on her walks down 88th Street between York and East End Avenues — rats.
“Every night, I see them skittle across the road,” Gutman said. “Some look even bigger than dogs!”
While most rats in New York City weigh no more than one pound, according to information from the New York City Department of Health, the rodent nevertheless poses a grave threat to many properties. The problem has been getting worse on the Upper East Side, according to Caroline Bragdon, director of neighborhood interventions and pest control services for the Department of Health.
Eleven tenants and one super attended a “Rat Academy” last Thursday hosted by Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright at the Brearley School. The free educational session instructed attendees on how to keep their neighborhood rodent-free and supplied guests with complimentary heavy-duty, lidded trash receptacles.
Bragdon led the presentation on rat prevention, continuously referring to garbage — also known as an endless buffet for the city rat — as the main culprit for increasing rodent populations.
“We’re trying to make more of an effort to engage property owners, rather than writing them tickets,” Bragdon explained about prevention efforts. Refusal to adhere to pest-control standards results in a fine. Fines begin at $300 and can be as high as $2,000.
Both rats and the accompanying fines can be avoided through the prevention methods outlined by Bragdon: inspect, clean and pest-proof.
Step one is to look for evidence of rat activity. Droppings, gnaw marks, and runways all indicate rat activity in an area. Next, Bragdon suggests the removal of any clutter, which could give rats a place to hide, sleep, nest and reproduce.
Since rats only require one ounce of food a day, garbage must also be managed to ensure the elimination of rodents. Garbage cans and bags should be brought to the curb as close to pick-up time as possible. Bradgon encourages the use of hard plastic or metal cans with tight-fitting lids.
“With rodents, you really have to be on the defensive,” Bragdon said about sealing any cracks and holes. Rats only need a quarter-sized hole to enter. She suggests metal door sweeps, sheet metal, and stainless-steel mesh to ensure the disappearance of the nosy visitors.