Mayor Adams set to name ‘rat czar’ who will tackle NYC’s rodent crisis

Tribune Content Agency

NEW YORK — The months-long search for New York City’s rat czar is over.

Mayor Eric Adams announced Thursday he has finally hired someone for the job, which comes with the hefty responsibility of eradicating the city’s growing population of four-legged vermin.

“We put out a call for a rat czar, and we got thousands of respondents. We’ve whittled it down to one person that we’re getting ready to announce,” the pest-despising mayor said at a rodent mitigation event in the Bronx hosted by the city Health Department.

The mayor said the czar is a woman — but would not divulge any more specifics about her. He did share a tidbit from the job interview he held with the mysterious appointee, though.

“The first thing I asked her is, ‘How do you feel about rats?’” he said. “And I was waiting for some type of, you know, ‘Well, I think they should be around’ — No. She made it very clear: ‘I hate rats.’”

Asked after the event how soon he expects to formally unveil the hire, Adams played coy and only told reporters he’s “not taking any questions.”

“We love New York,” he added with a chuckle.

Adams, who has made pest extermination a cornerstone of his municipal agenda and recently had to deal with a rat infestation at his Brooklyn property, first announced in December he was hiring for the newly-created czar post, officially called director of rat mitigation. A job posting urged applicants with a “killer instinct” to inquire for the job.

Some confusion over the job — which comes with a salary range of $120,000-$170,000 — erupted earlier this week when Adams posted a video on Twitter saying he “just learned” that the Health Department already has a full-time director of pest control services.

“There’s someone that works for the city that hates rats as much as I do. I got to meet this guy,” Adams said in the Tuesday video before the pest control director, Rick Simeone, brought him on a tour of what he called “one of the epicenters of rats,” the park in front of Manhattan Criminal Court.

A city government source said the czar job seems redundant, given that Simeone’s already on the case. The source who spoke on condition of anonymity also questioned how Adams’ creation of the new job jibes with his pledge to root out municipal inefficiencies.

“That’s a lot of redundancy,” the source said, adding that the czar gig seems synonymous with “what deputy mayors are for.”

Adams spokeswoman said there are distinct differences between the responsibilities of Simeone and the czar.

Simeone’s job includes “identifying and fixing conditions that make life easy for rats,” such as developing ways to “cut off the food supply for rats through containerization and composting,” the spokeswoman said.

The czar, meantime, will approach the rat problem from a macro viewpoint and “work with people like Ricky Simeone,” according to the Adams rep.

“(The czar) will be in charge of setting and executing strategy, policy, and programs across many agencies, as it relates to rat extermination,” she said.

The city’s rat problem has grown much worse during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the 311 hotline logging 21,600 rodent complaints in the first nine months of last year, a 71% spike as compared to the same time span in 2020.

The causes of the rat surge are believed to be myriad, such as an increase in household trash due to work-from-home policies.

Adams has zeroed in on trash lining sidewalks as a major driver of the rat uptick, and rolled out a policy earlier this year that will limit the number of hours garbage bags can sit on the curb before pickup.

At Thursday’s Bronx event, Adams said he has additional rat eradication techniques in the pipeline that he’s looking to soon roll out.

“We have put out a search again and coming up with some new devices,” he said. ”Some of them are very promising.”