Scott Stringer this morning urged the mayor and the City Council to restore pest control funding crucial for repelling a coming rodent invasion.
“It seems to us incredible that with this rat epidemic reaching epic proportions the City of New York would cut pest control workers by close to 70 percent,” Stringer told a group of rain-soaked reporters and Local 768 union members gathered at tiny Mitchell Square Park in Washington Heights. Behind him was the giant inflatable rat, hooked up to a humming generator, that’s become something of a mainstay of city labor disputes.
The city recently terminated 63 pest control workers, which Stringer said has led to a sharp rise in complaints about rodents. He said that although the layoffs will purportedly save the city $1.5 million, they sacrifice $6 million in fees the jobs would generate for the city. Flanked by union members, he praised the workers who are “lost in the budget dance.”
Stringer also cast the reductions as a public health issue, noting that that almost half of buildings inspected by the Department of Health bear signs of rodent denizens, and that studies have shown links between rodents and high asthma rates. He recounted hearing horror stories of emboldened rats “walking down the street as if they own the neighborhood.”
Washington Heights was chosen for the press conference because it has the city’s highest rate of rat infestation, according to a 2008 health department survey, and City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez blasted the city’s neglect of rodent-infested neighborhoods.
“Living in these types of conditions is unacceptable, it is unfair, we are showing New Yorkers that we are leaving an important part of our city behind,” Rodriguez said.