The appointment of Kathleen Corradi as New York City’s first “rat czar” has come four months after the city posted an advertisement seeking “somewhat bloodthirsty” candidates for the role. Corradi’s official title is director of rodent mitigation, and her task is to crack down on one of the more unpleasant aspects of life in the Big Apple, rats. The appointment of the former teacher and waste management expert follows years of the city spending millions of dollars trying to cull the rat population.
Rats are frequently seen in America’s largest metropolis, often spotted scurrying between subway tracks and sniffing around garbage bags on sidewalks. It’s an issue that’s been prevalent for centuries; even English novelist Charles Dickens complained about the rodents when he visited New York in 1842. Legend has it that there are as many rats as humans in the city, around nine million, although that figure has been debunked as a myth by a local statistician.
Corradi’s role is to coordinate city agencies such as the Departments of Health and Mental Hygiene, Parks and Recreation, and Sanitation to find innovative ways to cut off rats’ food sources and use new technologies to detect and exterminate rat populations. The government has tried various methods over the years, including deploying rodent birth control and vermin-proof trash cans. In 2019, Mayor Eric Adams, then Brooklyn borough president, unveiled a machine that drowned rats in a pool of alcohol-based liquid. The government also runs a “Rat Academy,” where local residents can learn rodent prevention methods.
The city has also created a “Harlem Rat Exclusion Zone” that covers much of the northern half of Manhattan. It will spend $3.5 million to improve and increase inspections, use equipment such as bait and traps, and harden floors at some public housing to prevent rat burrowing. Rats pose a serious public health challenge for the city, contaminating food and spreading diseases like leptospirosis, according to the NYC Department of Health website.
Corradi says that “rat mitigation is more than a quality-of-life issue for New Yorkers. Rats are a symptom of systemic issues, including sanitation, health, housing, and economic justice. As the first director of rodent mitigation, I’m excited to bring a science- and systems-based approach to fight rats.” She hopes to eliminate dirty curbs, unmanaged spaces, and brazen burrowing in the city. Mayor Adams has said, “The rats are going to hate Kathy, but we’re excited to have her leading this important effort.”
The city’s candidate search for the role of “rat czar” was unique. It sought someone who was “highly motivated and somewhat bloodthirsty,” with both “stamina and stagecraft.” They also wanted a person with a “swashbuckling attitude, crafty humor, and general aura of badassery.” Corradi fits the bill, and she will earn a salary of $155,000 per year.
In conclusion, New York City’s new rat czar has a daunting task ahead of her. The city’s rat population has been a persistent problem for centuries, and previous efforts to eliminate it have been unsuccessful. However, Corradi’s appointment and the city’s increased investment in rat mitigation may provide a new and effective solution to the problem. Rats are more than just an unpleasant aspect of life in the city; they pose a serious public health challenge. It will be interesting to see what innovative methods Corradi and the city agencies will use to tackle the issue.