Seeing vermin running amok on city streets and in subway tunnels is a turn-off for tourists, said Manhattan Borough president Scott Stringer.
“They don’t want to come here and share their vacation with a New York City rat,” Stringer told Reuters.
Demanding rat control money be restored to the city Health Department budget, Stringer said the cuts forced the layoff of 57 Pest Control workers. The result has been a 1.5 percent rise in complaints over last year and damage to New York’s appeal as a tourist destination, he said.
It’s also a public safety issue.
“I find this to be unacceptable because rodents are very dangerous to children and the quality of life of the city,” Stringer said.
He said the cut “makes no sense” as the city’s pest control program was collecting around $6 million in fines each year from building owners for pest-related health violations.
“Why would you make cuts to a program that actually makes money for the city?” Stringer said.
Unless the cuts are restored and the pest control force fortified, the rat control problem is only going to get worse, he said.
City health spokeswoman Susan Craig said the layoffs have “had no impact on the agency’s ability to respond to rat complaints.”
The city has adapted to the cuts by doing more comprehensive pest control sweeps of neighborhoods as opposed to responding to individual complaints, she said.
“Our new approach has allowed us to become better at discovering rat problems, better at notifying landlords about infestations and better at getting properties near each other to treat rat problems simultaneously,” she said.
Copyright © 2011 Reuters