Health Department Releases Report on Neighborhood-Based “Rat Indexing” in the Bronx and Manhattan

From 2010 to 2014, the Health Department proactively inspected 12,121 properties in the Bronx and 19,033 properties in Manhattan annually

The de Blasio Administration is currently investing $2.9M in the City’s effort to combat rats: hiring 41 new inspectors and pest control experts

July 22, 2016 – The Health Department today released a new report on neighborhood-based rat surveillance – or “Rat Indexing” – in the Bronx and Manhattan. The Rat Indexing program examines entire blocks or larger areas, rather than individual properties. The program inspects all the properties within a targeted area. The Health Department, working closely with elected officials, community boards, business improvement districts, commercial establishments, and residents, proactively inspected 12,121 properties in the Bronx and 19,033 properties in Manhattan annually for five years and took comprehensive follow-up action, including extensive baiting, on properties with rats. The Health Department will continue to analyze failure rates for rat activity to identify and target neighborhoods with high rat activity for increased services. The epi-data brief can be found on the agency’s website,

“Prevention is the best tool to control and reduce the rat population,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “The City is committed to using a comprehensive strategy to proactively reduce the rat population and address an important quality of life issue for many New Yorkers. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with communities and residents to decrease the number of rat sightings in our neighborhoods.”     

The report details that the indexing program led to reductions across the Bronx and Manhattan in active rat signs, such as live rats and active burrows. All Bronx community districts tracked in the report had lower rat “failure rates” in 2014 than in 2012. Bronx Community District 4 showed the best improvement – dropping from 12.2% to 10.6% between 2010 and 2014. The Rat Indexing program started in the Bronx and was expanded to Manhattan in 2010. Among Manhattan CDs, the peak failure rate occurred in 2010 (9%), and fell by nearly 30% in 2014. All districts saw an improvement or remained the same between 2010 and 2014, with Manhattan Community District 3 witnessing a 4.8% decline in that time period.

“Even though our City’s rodent problem has been around for centuries, and is likely to continue for centuries more, we cannot be complacent in our efforts to protect public health. Together with our city agency partners, we are engaging business owners and residents to spread the word about pest mitigation techniques and preventative measures,” said Council Member Margaret Chin. “I thank Commissioner Bassett and her colleagues for their hard work identifying problem areas through this rat indexing program and for working with the community on proactive solutions.”

“We commend the Health Department for their excellent work in educating residents, businesses, and community leaders on how to prevent infestations and maintaining a clean environment for families throughout our district. Controlling the rat population is a tremendously important issue for our residents in Manhattan Community Board 3. We will continue to take full advantage of the Rat Academy and Rat Reservoir programs as the city expands its investment in combating the rodent population,” said Susan Stetzer, District Manager for Community Board 3 in Manhattan.

"The Health Department Pest Management team has had a huge impact on the Upper West Side - they have addressed the rodent conditions in our parks and playgrounds, in the “rat reservoir”, and on multiple blocks.  They take a comprehensive approach - working with various agencies, local communities, and businesses in and stay with us as long as affected,” said Penny Ryan, District Manager for Community Board 7 in Manhattan. “The Rat Academies have trained numerous UWS businesses, building owners, and residents in how to address rodents through walk-throughs and site visits in all parts of the neighborhood, and do so on an ongoing basis. CB7 has been fortunate to have them in our community.”

“The issue of rodent infestation is of critical importance to Manhattan Community Board 12.  We are pleased to announce that, through joint bi-lingual educational training sessions with the Department of Health, we have reduced our rodent condition to the point that we are not the community with the highest concern.  We are continuing to work with our residents, landlords and businesses to completely eradicate this problem,” said Shahabuddeen (Shah) A. Ally, Esq, Chairperson for Community Board 12 in Manhattan.

In FY2015 and FY2016, DOHMH inspectors made about 4,000 visits and 3,000 bait applications on private properties and on public properties such as parks, gardens, green spaces, structural holes and catch basins in these targeted neighborhoods. During the pilot period of the rat reservoir program, the agency sent over 1,000 mailings introducing services available to property owners (over 800 in Manhattan and over 400 in Bronx). Additional mailings to owners offering services are planned for this year. DOHMH offered over 11 free Rodent Academy training events in 2015. The Rodent Academy offers free half-day courses for tenants, homeowners, businesses, and building staff interested in learning about rat management. The Health Department has been offering these free Academies in every rat reservoir neighborhood and continues to recruit New Yorkers for these trainings.

Rat Reservoir Program
In FY2015, Mayor de Blasio invested $2.9 million to expand the City’s most effective tool in combating rats – the Rat Reservoir Program. The investment expands program staff from nine people to 50 people, adds exterminators and public health sanitarians, and allows the agency to focus on more “rat reservoirs” across the city. These efforts have led to an 80 to 90 percent drop in rat sightings. The Health Department has been testing a novel strategy in Manhattan and the Bronx of intense baiting of concentrations of rats.  The information they have gathered –through their normal abatement activity of rat indexing and complaints they have received of intense rat activity— suggest that rat reservoirs are concentrated in and around parks, subways and sewers.  

Areas with high failure rates are now being targeted in 2016 with the “rat reservoir” program. The Health Department assigns case managers to neighborhoods with chronic or recalcitrant rat problems and works collaboratively with other city agencies and community groups to address both rats and the underlying conditions that cause them. Case managers are available to owners in these neighborhoods for free consultations and help without the threat of violations.

Information on the Health Department’s efforts against rodents and steps to preventing infestations can be found here.



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