City Ignores 'Simple Thing' In Rat Fight That Prospect Heights Learned

PROSPECT HEIGHTS, BROOKLYN — A new video that labels garbage cans with lids as a “simple thing” every New Yorker can do to fight rats has an anti-rodent resident in Prospect Heights flummoxed.

In the video shared to Mayor Eric Adams’ Twitter page on Tuesday, the Mayor goes on a walk with the Health Department’s Director of NYC Pest Control Services, Rick Simeone.

As they examine rat burrows, the rat-hating duo agree that controlling the rats’ “food source” is the only way to fight rodents, something experts have long said, as opposed to a focus exclusively on extermination (via drowning or otherwise).

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Simeone tells the mayor that an important part of the anti-rat fight is “getting new Yorkers involved in this.”

“If they could put their garbage out closer to the time sanitation picks up,” Simeone said, naming a soon-to-be implemented change in trash pick-up time — which may or may not have a great effect on the notoriously nocturnal beasts — and “having lids on their garbage when it goes out.”

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Mayor Adams concurring by saying: “simple things.”

If it’s so simple, a member of the Sterling Committee on Rat Awareness and Mitigation — SCRAM — told Patch, why did it take digging through arcane Sanitation bylaws for these rat-engaged New Yorkers to discover the little-known fact?

“DSNY should do an ad campaign to encourage buildings to switch to containers with lids,” anti-rat crusader and SCRAM member Jesse Hendrich wrote to Patch.

“Give SCRAM a platform and we’d happily say to the city what we have said to our block and to the [District 35] Rat Task Force: contain your trash, 55 [gallons] or less, WITH LID,” Hendrich wrote.

Since last summer, SCRAM has embarked on a door-to-door organizing campaign to convince neighbors of their rat-infested block to use trash cans with lids.

Most of the block now uses lidded trash bins, and according to their own rat-walk surveys, they’ve had a major reduction in rat sightings.

But to get there, they had to fight a lot of false information about using trash bins with lids for curbside pickup.

“We came across a lot of misconceptions that Sanitation wouldn’t pick them up and that their trash would have to be sitting in bags on the street anyways,” SCRAM member Kamy Wicoff told Patch last fall.

The official rule is that trash will be picked up from the curb if it is a container no larger than 55 gallons, according to the Sanitation Department.

But it took a lot of work to get accurate information.

One Sanitation worker told Hendrich last year that the limit was 32 gallons.

And both the Sanitation and 311 websites cited a 44 gallon limit (since Patch’s reporting on this last fall, they both have been corrected to say 55 gallons).

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A DSNY spokesperson told Patch that a recent mailer sent citywide “heavily” incentivizes the use of containers with secure lids.

That incentive? Putting your trash out at 6 p.m. as opposed to an 8 p.m. time for a loose garbage bag.

Hendrich says the city should be more explicit about telling New Yorkers that these bins are crucial to fight rats — and that their usage is allowed.

“Reduce the food source and they will do the exterminating for us. And the best way to reduce the food? Containerize our trash,” Hendrich said.

Currently the Sanitation Department is wrapping up a $4 million study — conducted by controversial private consulting firm McKinsey — on what large-scale containerization would look like in the Big Apple, a feature common in many older, medieval cities across Europe.

The city is also still searching for its Rat Czar, a position that would help improve inter-departmental coordination in the rat fight — something that another Prospect Heights resident, Carol Morrison, has spent years advocating for.

According to a City Hall spokesperson, officials are still wading through the nearly 900 applications they received in the week-and-a-half that the position was open.

The spokesperson couldn’t tell Patch if interviews for the position have begun nor if there was a date when the city could expect the Rat Czar to begin their “bloodthirsty” reign.

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