NYC waged a war on rodents. Now it’s searching for a new ‘rat czar.’


A war is raging in New York City, and the bloodshed is about to begin – at least that’s what city leaders hope as they search for a new “rat czar.”

Rats’ fight for supremacy in the Big Apple has long been a losing battle – but they’re gaining momentum. Though humans still outnumber rats, the rodent population is on the rise, fueled by an ever-present, all-you-can-eat buffet of trash in the city. New York City’s Sanitation Department has seen rat sightings increase by 71 percent since October 2020. Though city exterminators have tried their best, it’s been a resistance movement of sorts as the four-legged enemies scurry off to dark corners and circumvent hunting dogs. The rodents’ antics include harassing pets, attacking pigeons, unmercifully snatching food, and sending people to the hospital – and occasionally, to their deathbeds.

Mayor Eric Adams (D) has had enough – because “there’s NOTHING I hate more than rats,” he posted on Twitter.

A new job listing for “director of rodent mitigation,” posted this week, is almost as hardcore as city officials’ hatred of rats. Among the job requirements: a “swashbuckling attitude, crafty humor, and general aura of badassery.” Also requested are proficiency in Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint; a bachelor’s degree; and a New York City residence.

“If you have the drive, determination, and killer instinct needed to fight New York City’s relentless rat population – then your dream job awaits,” Adams said in his tweet.

The role comes with a salary between $120,000 and $170,000, far more than New York City’s median household income of $67,000. But be warned, the job isn’t for the squeamish – the rat czar is expected to use “hands-on techniques to exterminate rodents with authority and efficiency.”

“The ideal candidate is highly motivated and somewhat bloodthirsty, determined to look at all solutions from various angles, including improving operational efficiency, data collection, technology innovation, trash management, and wholesale slaughter,” according to the listing, which deems the position a “24/7 job requiring stamina and stagecraft.”

The person who fills the newly created job will report to deputy mayor for operations Meera Joshi, who herself has some . . . strong feelings about rodents.

“Cunning, voracious, and prolific. NYC’s rats are legendary for their survival skills, but they don’t run this city – we do,” she wrote on Twitter. “Do you have what it takes to lead our war on rats?”

But while the guns-blazing crusade against rats has peaked this year in New York City, antipathy toward them goes way back.

According to a study of the global population of brown rats, the rodents scurrying around dumpsters in cities such as New York and Washington, D.C., trace their origins to China and Mongolia – and they’re the product of centuries of global trade. By taking DNA samples from rats in 30 countries, the researchers found that, though the critters have been around for hundreds of thousands of years, their world-conquering mostly happened in the past three centuries. Hiding inside ships, the brown rat made its way to Europe in the 1500s and then to the Western hemisphere, Africa and Australia as colonizers arrived.

Though rats eventually settled across the United States, there’s perhaps not a city that has historically loathed them as much as New York. A story published by the New York Times in 1865 complained about the “audacious” rodents bullying small dogs in broad daylight.

“New-York is fast gaining an unenviable notoriety for producing a large number of rats and other household nuisances than any other city in the Union, and if the increase continues at the present rate much longer it will be necessary for the Common Council to follow the example of the burghers of Hamelin, and engage a Pied Piper to charm the vermin to their destruction,” the article reads.

A street sign for Wall Street is seen outside the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in Manhattan, New York City, U.S. December 28, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/Files

Nearly 160 years later, a Pied Piper has yet to rescue a city that isn’t quite considered to be the rattiest in the nation – that title has fallen on Chicago for eight consecutive years, according to an annual study by pest control company Orkin.

But with more than 8 million residents raising their torches against New York City’s approximately 2 million rodents – and a search for a mastermind to exterminate them underway – the rats are, perhaps, “gonna hate this,” as the mayor’s office posited.

“This is not ‘Ratatouille,'” New York City Councilmember Shaun Abreu said during an October news conference, referencing Pixar’s animated film about a rat that can cook. “Rats are not our friends.”



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