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New York’s ‘rat czar’ will only succeed if she realizes that rats are not the ‘enemy,’ an expert says

Kathleen Corradi was announced as New York City's first director of rodent mitigation on April 12.Kathleen Corradi was announced as New York City’s first director of rodent mitigation on April 12.

Bobby Caina Calvan/AP

  • The former schoolteacher, who’s become New York’s “rat czar,” may face an uphill battle to succeed.
  • An urban-rat expert said Kathleen Corradi must realize rats are not the “enemy.”
  • “The ‘real city rats’ are the men and women of bureaucracy,” Michael Parsons told Insider. 

Kathleen Corradi’s dedication to public service started when she was just 10. 

After seeing a dead rat on Long Island, she started a petition in her neighborhood, her mother told The New York Times.

Corradi, a former elementary-school teacher and city education-department official, was appointed Wednesday as New York’s first director of rodent mitigation, with Eric Adams, the mayor of New York City, describing her as a “maestro.”

“When I first saw this job posting, I wasn’t sure if it was real. ‘Bloodthirsty’ is not a word you usually see in a job description and it’s certainly not a word I usually describe myself,” Corradi said during a news conference.

Corradi will oversee the city’s existing rat-mitigation effort, including the rodent biologist Robert Corrigan at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene,  the Office of Pest Control, and a citywide rodent task force, The New York Times reported.

“Rat mitigation is more than a quality-of-life issue — rats are the symptom of systemic issues, including sanitation, health, housing, and economic justice,” she added. “You can’t just deal with one part of the problem and call it day.”

Corradi, who is being paid $155,000 a year for the position, outlined her plans before vowing: “You’ll be seeing a lot of me, and a lot less rats.”

Michael Parsons, an urban-rat expert and a visiting research scholar at Fordham University, told Insider that Corradi will only succeed in reducing the city’s rodent population if she realizes exactly who the actual “enemies” are. 

The ‘real rats’ of New York City

Corradi’s task comes after residents reported almost 3.2 million rat sightings last year to the city’s 311 service-request line.

Parsons said that the rat czar may face an uphill battle not because of the rodents, “but instead due to the ‘real city rats’ — the men and women of bureaucracy and their two-and-a-half centuries of bad practice.”

According to the mayoral website, New York produces more than 14 million tons of trash every year, which usually goes into landfills or incinerators, but can also pollute streets and waterways.

“Ms. Corradi needs to change to science-supported steps rather than unproven, ‘gimmicky’ approaches,” Parsons said.

To succeed, Parsons said he believes that Corradi would need to:  

  • Helping the city better understand rodent biology: such as by avoiding collecting as much trash at night, when rats are most active.
  • Studying which approaches work best: “There must be data.”
  • Avoid spending money on unproven techniques, including composting. “In fact, data suggests composting could increase rat populations,” Parsons said.

However, the most important thing is to no longer think of rats as the “enemy,” because the creatures will only eat what they are can find. “Understand that rat control begins by changing people’s habits, hygiene, and expectations,” he said.

He said Corradi should “direct the city as to how to control rats, and not give in to non-rodent specialists such as her bosses, who prefer non-proven, non-scientific approaches.”

The mayor’s office and Corradi didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment from Insider.

Here’s how to stop rodents from living under your car’s hood and avoid big repair bills.

Read the original article on Business Insider