New York City received 17,353 rat sighting calls last year, this map shows them all

Earlier today I wrote about the rat and garbage problem in Los Angeles. But the problem is not limited to LA or to the west coast. Today the NY Times published a report about the serious rat problem in New York City. The map above is based on 311 calls to report rat sightings, more than 17,000 such reports were made last year alone:

Rat sightings reported to the city’s 311 hotline have soared nearly 38 percent, to 17,353 last year from 12,617 in 2014, according to an analysis of city data by, a nonprofit watchdog group, and The New York Times. In the same period, the number of times that city health inspections found active signs of rats nearly doubled.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, like mayors before him, has declared war on rats, but so far the city is still losing…

City health inspections found 30,874 instances of “active rat signs,” which including sightings and droppings, at buildings and properties last year, or nearly double the 16,315 instances in 2014, according to the analysis. In the first three months of this year, there were 8,003 inspection reports of active rat signs, up from 6,787 in the same period last year.

The Times offers a series of reasons for the rat problem: gentrification, population growth, tourism and of course climate change. Later in the article, you get to a much more likely source of the problem: the city’s trash collection.

A major contributing factor is how the city collects trash: bags are left outside on the curb for hours before pick up the next morning. “It’s just an all-night buffet for the rats,” he said.

On Ninth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, rats chow down on trash bags piled outside restaurants and bars. Steve Belida, the chairman of a local block association, said he used to get the occasional rat complaint. Now he gets a steady stream…

On a recent night, black trash bags piled along a stretch of sidewalk known as “rat alley” seemed to crinkle on their own as rats squirmed inside. High-pitched squeaks filled the air. “It’s not the night before Christmas,” said Mr. Herrera, who lives next door.

Mr. Herrera has found gnawed chicken bones and rat droppings underneath his car hood. He spent $150 to replace chewed-up ignition wires. Walking down the street has become a source of anxiety for his 9-year-old daughter, Isabella Henry.

Last April, Mayor de Blasio declared war on rats and introduced a new plan to fight them using dry ice to suffocate the rats in their burrows. However, his demonstration didn’t go as planned. One rat who was supposed to be suffocated by the dry ice leaped out of a hole and ran around the site as various workers tried to stamp on it with boots and a shovel. The rat escaped. Maybe that should have been a hint.

The interactive rat map is here if you want to explore a particular neighborhood. And here’s a recent Vice story about the rat problem in the city and a group of dog owners who hunt the rats for sport.