The Rat Race: NYC Style

First it was the bed bugs and now it’s the rats.  Though these growing plagues are not of Black Death proportions, they’re concerning enough that Senator Perkins took it upon himself to survey 5,000 New Yorkers on their rat sightings.  The results of his survey are in, showing that a not-so-alarming 99 percent of New Yorkers have seen a rat on the subway.  Since I average 4 or 5 spottings each week, I am quite amazed that only 1 percent of people have never even seen a rat! Which trains do you take? How is your vision? Are you a smartphone-aholic and thereby oblivious to your surroundings?

The survey showed that almost 60 percent of New Yorkers see the rodents daily, 29 percent weekly, and typically the vermin are spotted on the train tracks (though 4 percent of the population sees them places other than the train, platform or tracks).  I am always entertained when my visitors get excited about spotting rats in the Subway—like it some rite of passage visiting the city. Their enthusiasm quick fades if the rat is on the platform, however…

If rats really aren’t your thing, then do your best to avoid the 125th St. 4, 5, 6 station and the 145th St. A, B, C, D, as they fared the worst in the survey. The station with the least rat reports was the 148th St. 3. Note: The survey only included stations above 86th St. so the heart of Manhattan wasn’t represented and chances are if you live anywhere near the construction of the 2nd Ave. subway line, then you’re seeing rats both above and below ground.

Overflowing trash at the Times Square station. (Mitch Favrow)

Right now, there are proposals to outlaw food in the subway and control the trash situation, much in the same way D.C. by banning food on the Metro (even a 12-year-old girl was arrested for eating a french fry!).  This seems like a pretty ambitious initiative, especially considering that the budget is already so pressed that Mayor Bloomberg isn’t even sending out holiday cards this year. It also begs the question- which problem should New York tackle first: bed bugs or rats?

Either way, I am confident that New Yorkers will overcome. After all, we’ve been in a pickle like this before—take the Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894 as an example. Cities like NYC and London were considered doomed because horses produced some 2.5 million pounds of horse dung each day, which if not properly disposed of caused buggy accidents and varying illnesses! Alas, someone invented the automobile and manure was confined to farms and the countryside. So, with that little anecdote, we simply need an exterminator of extraordinary greatness to get us past this little predicament so we can focus on other city emergencies—like Madison Square Garden crumbling from asbestos!

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One Response to “The Rat Race: NYC Style”

  1. New Yorkers only rarely see rats ON the subway, since their little paws can’t reach high enough to put any more money on their metrocards without substantial assistance, assuming there is even an attendant on duty, which there rarely is. Rather one sees them IN the subway system, usually scarfing up stuff that should never have been thrown down on the tracks in the first place. I’ve seen a hell of a lot more people behaving like animals than actual animals in the subway system. Can we please get rid of scary guilt-slinging monotone panhandlers and THEN worry about Rattie? How about the guys who pee? I’m way more alarmed by the pervasiveness of the guys who pee than I am the generally well-behaved rodent population. Exterminate the guys who pee!

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