By David McCabe
Using interactive maps and online resources, the city’s Health Department is now trying to harness the power of the Web to fight rats. Through an interactive “Rat Information Portal,” the city is hoping that residents and building managers will learn how to deal with the rodents.
The portal, at www.nyc.gov/rats, features so-called “rat maps,” which allow anyone to track the routine rat inspections the city conducts, down to an individual building. If a building is found to have signs of rats by a D.O.H. inspector, it is colored red on the map. The data is promptly entered onto a hand-held tablet computer by the inspector.
In addition, the building super is notified that something has to be done to remedy the problem. If a follow-up inspection indicates the problems still exist, then that data is added to the map as well.
The portal also encourages residents to rid their neighborhoods of the vermin by searching for the rodents using the “rat maps.” D.O.H. suggests printing out the maps and looking for “where the rats are finding food, water and places to live.” D.O.H. says it is important to dispose of trash properly, because trash on the street can attract rats.
According to the Health Department, the portal has been popular, receiving hundreds of thousands of visits since it launched less than two years ago.
The Health Department said that community boards have used the portal to track rat infestations in their jurisdictions. But Bob Gormley, Community Board 2 district manager, said the board hasn’t used the portal yet, but that it seemed like a useful tool. Many of the rat infestations in C.B. 2’s district are in the West Village, he said.
Gormley noted the board frequently gets rat complaints on Morton St., St. Luke’s Place around James J. Walker Park and MacDougal St. near Houston and King Sts.
The city is also hoping to train building supers to manage pest infestations at the Rodent Control Academy, a.k.a. the “Rat-cademy,” a three-day program to assist building owners and managers, along with pest control professionals, in dealing with rats and mice. The academy’s original branch, in the Bronx, has trained more than 300 people since 2008. A new branch just opened in Manhattan.
Gormley said he was going to reach out to local supers in order to get them to sign up for the academy. He said he would just go around handing out fliers and talking to supers.
He said all that was required for getting the word out about the initiative was “shoe rubber,” not bandwidth.