New York mayor Bill de Blasio announces $32m plan to cut city's huge rat population

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New York has declared war on rats with the mayor spending millions of dollars on a plan to slash the number of rodents by 70 per cent in the city’s most infested areas. 

Announcing the $32 million (£25 million) battle plan, Bill de Blasio said in a press conference: “I don’t know any New Yorker who likes rats. They’re dangerous, they’re unhealthy.”

Hundreds of vermin-proof steel rubbish cans, costing $7,000 (£5,400) each, will be bought. Some residents will have to put trash out between 4am and 6am rather than during the day, so it is on the streets for less time.

In public housing blocks, dirt basement floors will be replaced with concrete ones. A study in 2014 found there were about two million rats in New York, or one for every four people. The problem was highlighted earlier this year when one person died and two others became severely ill in the Bronx from a rare rat-transmitted disease. 

Mr de Blasio admitted trying to eradicate them was “basically like bailing out a leaky boat — you would get the water out for a while, and then it would just come back. How do you actually cut off the lifestyle of a New York City rat? This plan is about going at the root cause, stopping rats from having a place to live, stopping them from having the food that they want to eat.”

He also touched on the paradoxical relationship New Yorkers have with rodents: they loathe them but respect their toughness and resilience, qualities they see in themselves. Mr de Blasio said he had a “certain admiration” for “Pizza Rat”, pictured above, who was filmed dragging a slice of pizza twice its size down subway stairs. The clip went viral and was seen 9.8 million times.

The campaign will focus on neighbourhoods with the most complaints:  Chinatown, Lower East Side and East Village in Manhattan, Grand Concourse in the Bronx, and Bushwick and Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn. 

Most of the vermin are brown rats, which grow up to 10ins long and weigh 12oz, though most New Yorkers will swear they have seen them bigger. One 3ft rodent found in a FootLocker store in The Bronx was identified as a Gambian pouched rat, and dubbed Master Splinter after the kung-fu-practising rat in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.


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