A Rat Killer Has Some Advice for Mayor Adams

Good morning. It’s Friday. Mayor Eric Adams has a residential rat problem. We’ll hear what someone who has spent more than 40 years in the pest-control business would advise the mayor to do.

Eric Adams in 2019, when he was the Brooklyn borough president, with a chart showing how rapidly rats can reproduce.Credit…Angela Weiss/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mayor Eric Adams, who in his official capacity has been waging war on rats, has again been fined for failing to control them at the four-unit rowhouse he owns in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn.

The latest summonses were issued on Dec. 7, the day after the mayor challenged an earlier one, and carry up to $1,200 in fines. The mayor said on Wednesday that he would again fight the citations, even as he acknowledged that there is a rat problem in the city. “I mean, who are we kidding?” he said.

The mayor’s rat problem reached “another level of absurdity” on Wednesday, as my colleague Dana Rubinstein put it. Curtis Sliwa, the Guardian Angels founder who lost to Adams in the mayoral election last year, appeared in front of the mayor’s rowhouse. Sliwa brought along two of the 16 cats he and his wife live with, showed off a dead rat and offered to set up a cat colony for the mayor.

I wondered if the mayor might not want different advice. John Murphy, an executive at Liphatech, a company that develops and distributes products to control rat infestations, had some ideas. He appeared at the New York Pest Expo last year and at an earlier workshop called “Serious Rodent Management With Style.” His job includes training other licensed pesticide applicators and working with municipalities on rodent problems.

So what would you say to the mayor?

Mr. Mayor, your problem can be managed. There is action that can be performed to manage this situation you’re having.

The first question is, Mr. Mayor, where are your rats coming from? Was it droppings? Was it nesting material?

Mr. Mayor, it could just be a random rat because of the population density in Brooklyn. It could be a random rat from three houses away or a construction area in the next block. Why are they citing you? I don’t know how the violation reads.

And if I were the inspector who gives the mayor the fine, I’d ask, is there evidence on the exterior or have you actually gone inside? If it’s exterior, are the rats coming up from the sewer line or are they on a neighbor’s property and running over? Are they nesting here? Are they just passing through or does this house have a lot of garbage out front? Maybe the garbage is attracting rats that are coming from someplace else.

So, Mr. Mayor, a rat here, a rat there. The best advice is to call in a professional who’s licensed. Let them evaluate the situation and let them do what a pest control applicator does best: Look for conducive conditions and give you a summary of what your house and your block look like.

The mayor says he’s spent $7,000 on rat mitigation efforts. What would you tell him?

With all due respect, Mr. Mayor, what did you pay for? Did you pay for somebody to do exclusion work on the residence, meaning seal up the holes and stuff in an older building? Did you pay for an individual to do an assessment and put a protective barrier of rodent control tools to prevent rats from coming onto the property and infesting the property?

Have you been paying them just to protect your building so the rats do not come into your structure? Perhaps you need somebody to create a more comprehensive program, look at the neighbors and say, “Why do the rats keep coming here and I keep getting violations?”

Seven thousand dollars is a lot of money. If they just went in and firmed up the building so you’re not getting any entry, I respect that, but what else is going on on the outside? You need to have a comprehensive approach because this is a recurring problem.

If the infestation is coming from next door, what can the mayor do? Have a chat with the neighbor?

I could say, yes, Mr. Mayor, the problem is your neighbor.

Now does that homeowner do it themselves or call in a professional? If they call in a professional, yes, they’re going to pay out of pocket, but they can find a company that comes in and sets up a program and controls that population.

The neighbor might want to use rat traps. But maybe the cause is the rats are living under the sidewalk and there are cracks in the sidewalk, and then there are garbage containers. Maybe the neighbor is putting out garbage bags and the rats are eating through the garbage bags.

So, once again, where are the rats coming from?

Can’t the next-door neighbor of someone who received a violation just buy rodenticide at a hardware store?

They could, but they would probably apply it against label directions. I’d rather bring in a licensed professional pest control company that can evaluate and provide a summary of what the needs are to control the rat problem.

The average homeowner won’t read the label. I’m disrespecting the homeowner here, but often the way homeowners apply rodenticide, it’s the opposite of the way the label tells you to. The label says you cannot use this bait outside unless it’s in a tamper-resistant bait station. You’re not going to toss bait around the building.

A homeowner may not read that and may just say ‘I’m going to put the bait around my garbage pails, loose.’ You can’t do that. It needs to be secured and anchored so you can’t lift the bait station above your head and shake the bait out. Does a homeowner realize that? Does a homeowner think about that?

Do you think Mayor Adams knows that?

Mr. Mayor’s got a bunch of people working under him. There are people to answer his questions. But he can call me. Maybe he could pay my E-Z Pass if I drove to Brooklyn. But I’m not going to show up with cats, that’s for sure.


Expect rain before 1 p.m. and temperatures near the mid-40s. The evening is partly cloudy, with temps around the mid-30s.


Suspended today (Three Kings’ Day).

The latest New York news

Credit…Cindy Schultz for The New York Times


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Quick comeback

Dear Diary:

I came out of a meeting on the Upper West Side on a wintry evening and hurried down the block to catch my bus home. I was wearing a knitted hat with bits of silver tinsel in it at the time.

A group of men who were probably in their late 20s came out of a bar.

“Nice hat,” one of them yelled sarcastically but good-naturedly.

Without a moment’s thought, I reverted back to my teenage self.

“Nice face,” I yelled back.

As I reached the bus stop, I could hear him and his friends laughing in the distance.

— Irene Biggs

Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.

Glad we could get together here. See you on Monday. — J.B.

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.

Melissa Guerrero and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].


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