The overnight celebrity of Manhattan’s newest viral sensation “Pizza Rat” is cause to examine some uncomfortable truths about living in New York. Namely, the city has created a festering ecosystem of garbage and disease that punishes mankind and rewards rodents. And it’s probably gonna stay this way.
The New York Times reports the city’s most recent budget set aside $2.9 million to target and eradicate the city’s high-density “rat reservoirs” where a dozen furry petri dishes have been birthed by the time you finish this sentence. The transit authority even removed nearly 40 subway trash cans in recent years, tacitly nudging commuters to portage out their trash and thus cut off some of the food supply. Thus far, neither measure seems to have made a dent. These rats, they breed like rabbits.
“After four years, the best one can say about this experiment is that it’s inconclusive, except for the fact that riders have a harder time finding a trash can,” New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli told the Times. Missing a once-in-a-lifetime chance at a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles wisecrack, he declined to comment on Pizza Rat.
Man and rat have been at war since before the plague days, with heavy casualties on both sides. In Rat, Jonathan Burt’s history of the rodent, the author described them as living in “man’s parallel universe,” thriving in places we’d prefer not to think about: sewers, subway tunnels, crumbling abandoned buildings, probably your toilet, and maybe your pillowcases right now. And few species have gained as much by human’s advances. Our prodigious waste trails have allowed rats to establish themselves, Fievel-like, on every continent but Antarctica. We try to kill them from the air, using helicopters and GPS grids to spit poison food down at them, and pioneer new kinds of automatic traps to spray poison. Nothing takes for long.
Unfortunately, we can’t get a helicopter down with the L train.