For the second time in seven months, one of New York Mayor Eric Adams’ own health inspectors has ticketed him for rat infestations at the Brooklyn brownstone he calls home.
Because it wouldn’t be New York without things turning into a circus, the man who unsuccessfully ran against Adams for the mayorship, Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa, took advantage of the mayor’s embarrassment by bringing two of his
16 18 cats to Adams’ block and holding a press conference on the sidewalk where he touted felines as the solution. (Adams, who is well known for his hatred of the rodents, famously held a “rat summit” at Brooklyn Borough Hall in 2019, “gleefully” showing off a new rat-killing contraption to reporters.)
Introducing reporters to his tuxedo, Tiny, and tabby cat, Thor, Sliwa said Adams was missing the most obvious solution to the rat problem — cats — and offered to become the city’s “rat czar” free of charge.
“Like most New Yorkers, [Adams] is frightened of rats,” Sliwa told reporters outside the mayor’s brownstone. “He’s tried everything but it’s time that we revert back to the best measure that has ever worked — and that’s cats.”
As we’ve noted before on PITB, Sliwa and his wife are dedicated cat servants, perhaps overly so. They currently house 18 cats in their Manhattan studio apartment, Sliwa said on his radio show this Sunday. Some of them are the couple’s pets and some are fosters for their rescue.
The rat problem in New York is real and, sadly, as bad as people make it out to be. You can hear them at night in many neighborhoods, and it’s not unusual to see them briefly caught in the glow of streetlights before scurrying into the shadows again.
I’ll never forget watching an entire conga line of them at the 125th St. subway platform. They just marched out of a hole in the twilight, each one bigger than the last, going about their business without any concern for what people might do to them.
And the answer, they know, is nothing. Because New York’s rats aren’t regular rats. They’re well-fed freaks, ballooning to enormous sizes thanks to the abundance of garbage cans to eat out of and the way garbage is collected in the city. Back in 2015, video of a rat dragging an entire slice of pizza down the steps to a Manhattan subway platform went viral, racking up more than 12 million views and earning the rodent the title Pizza Rat:
People who aren’t from New York and have never visited are probably shocked to see garbage piled high on the sidewalks of every street. New Yorkers are supposed to put the garbage out the night before pickup, but no one really observes that rule, and the mounds of trash grow for days before sanitation removes them. It’s a feast for the rats, and any solution has to start with cleaning up the garbage situation.
In the winter the cold weather prevents the contents of the trash from rotting, so the stink isn’t as bad, and sometimes the trash mountains are covered by snow.
But in the summer, when the tree-lined avenues get their green canopies and flowers bloom in window boxes, the city reeks. On hot days, the perfume of New York is rotting trash and the overwhelming smell of urine wafting up from the subways. Sometimes I think of what the Japanese, with their spotless streets and shiny subways, must think when they come to New York for the first time.
In October, after the city fielded a 71 percent increase in rat complaints over the previous year, the city introduced a new law making it illegal to put trash on the sidewalk before 8 pm ahead of pickup the following morning. The change hasn’t made a dent in the rodent problem.
In any case, New York is not a good place for cats. Thankfully we have a huge and generally well-funded network of rescues that get kitties off the street and pulls cats and dogs from the city’s animal control system before they’re due to be euthanized, but strays who fall through the cracks don’t last long.
Indeed, when the New York Post talked to one of Mayor Adams’ neighbors shortly after Sliwa’s latest press event on Sunday afternoon, the woman said she’d like another cat to patrol the area around her building. The last one, she explained, had been run over by a car.
I don’t really expect anything to come of Sliwa’s plan to use cats in rat-infested locales. The red-bereted radio host is hawking the scheme because he likes to be a thorn in the mayor’s side, and because it generates free publicity, especially from the city’s tabloids and local news channels.
But if it ever comes to fruition, and people really expect strays to handle their rat problems, Sliwa and company better have a plan to keep the cats safe from traffic.