“New York is an ugly city,” according to John Steinbeck. “Its climate is a scandal, its politics are used to frighten children, its traffic is madness, its competition is murderous. But there is one thing about it: Once you have lived in New York and it has become your home, no place else is good enough.”
It’s perhaps this gritty attitude about New York that has turned what could have been a massive turn-off for tourists into one of the city’s latest top attractions. In the city that doesn’t sleep “Rat Tours” are the new must.
🐀🗽 New York rats: The unofficial ambassadors of the city that never sleeps! They’ve got the hustle, the street smarts, and a love for pizza that rivals any Ninja Turtle. 🍕😂 #NYCRats #PizzaLovers 🍕🐁 pic.twitter.com/ABm3wNePwo— papian (@PapianMj) September 11, 2023
The New York Post recently listed various New York tour operators focusing on rat-based locations near parks and constructions sites. This came alongside accounts of tourists who want nothing more than to come up close and personal with these most underground of New York’s residents, that are sometimes perceived as a mascot for the go-getting approach to life embraced by New Yorkers.
“They [rats] are like the new celebs in New York City with all the press they are getting,” said Luke Miller, owner of Real New York Tours, which has added a stop to Columbus Park near Chinatown for “tourists with a yen for vermin,” according to the Post.
But when do rats stop being a cute curiosity and turn into a health threat?
#NewYork City is now so overrun with rats that it is inspiring #tourism. Tour guides are offering trips to see the worst rodent-infested areas. This is quickly leading to a boom in industry. Watch this report on #BeyondBizarre to know how. pic.twitter.com/1EpodFSLK7— Firstpost (@firstpost) September 12, 2023
Rat population explosion
New York’s rat population has exploded with reports of rat activity citywide in 2022 up by 102 percent on the previous year, according to Health Department data.
Some blame outdoor dining plans that were put into place to help restaurants survive during Covid-19 restrictions, but that had no mitigation built-in to deal with the extra footfall they would receive from our four-legged, long-tailed “friends.”
Outdoor dining was “designed without a plan to keep the rats from becoming its biggest patrons,” said city Department of Sanitation Commissioner Jessica Tisch last month.
39,000 incidents of rat activity have been reported so far in 2023.
the reason azul core started with a rat i found 4 years ago was bcs it’s the only animal i resonate with. just persevering thru the trenches trying to make it to rat central, new york city pic.twitter.com/HnrVrLLwW4— life cycle of an eel (@user258oh) September 4, 2023
To tackle the furry invasion, the city launched measures in 2022 with rules about securing garbage and when to put it outside, as well as the introduction of “rat migration zones” and fines for businesses who neglect anti-rat responsibilities. Back in April 2023, Mayor Eric Adams brought in a “rat czar” to help with the city’s anti-rat initiatives.
Meanwhile, appealing to the younger generation is Noelia from the Bronx, a 12-year-old newly-convinced rat enthusiast who sometimes makes social media appearances on “Rat-Tok”. She admits the younger generation need to be warned about the impact rats can have.
Reason #39677500 why to move out of New York City. pic.twitter.com/lAJRiDFasI— Michael ✡︎ (@micieb) August 18, 2023
Having noticed that rats probably benefitted from one pandemic in the form of Covid-19, we should remember that rodents are associated with other worldwide health disasters. Fleas from rats spread the Black Death in the 14th century, killing 25 million across Europe. Rats carry at least 30 different diseases dangerous to human health including salmonellosis, typhus, and Lyme disease, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Rats are very dangerous and infect our communities,” Noelia told the Post.