Monday, August 16, 2010

You Dirty Rat!

Errol Louis has a disturbing column in yesterday's NY Daily News about the recrudescence of the rat infestation in NYC: "No, it's not your imagination. Reports trickling in from across the city all point to an explosion of rat infestations. Rodents recently took over a block of W. 87th St. "Residents say they have seen dozens scurrying about in the night (one super says he has seen up to 100!)" reported the Westside Independent in June."

Now Louis, is pointing all this out because he feels that the city needs to bring back its rat patrol force: "Most New Yorkers tend to think about the difficult topic of rats the way psychologists say we handle death: with successive feelings of anger, denial, bargaining and depression - and, finally, acceptance. Those of us stuck in the anger stage won't be happy to learn about a decision by the Health Department to reduce teams of frontline rat-battlers - a bad move that can be fixed at zero cost to the city. "The situation has really deteriorated," says Fitz Reid, President of Local 768 of the Health Service Employees union. A total of 63 out of 84 pest control aides were laid off earlier this year, says Reid - workers paid $27,000 to $30,000 a year and tasked with doing inspections, issuing summonses and clearing vacant lots and buildings infested with rats."

We see these things a bit differently. After all, bringing in the exterminators is an after the fact kind of operation-and does nothing to root out the root causes. And what is one of those major root causes? The veritable Templeton-like smorgasbord of putrescible waste that the city hasn't found a good way to reduce and/or dispose of. As we have pointed out, the city council has launched yet another quixotic attempt to figure out ways to induce New Yorkers to compost organic waste-a silly waste of money when we have a much more effective methodology at our disposal: food waste disposers.
Food waste disposers would greatly reduce the storage of wet garbage at all of the city's restaurants, green grocers and supermarkets-and would, at the same time, reduce the operating expenses of these vital small businesses in our neighborhoods. Disposers, then, would be an excellent public health initiative that would double as an economic development effort during these tough times.

In fact, it is the kind of public health initiative that the city's Department of Health should be championing-in spite of the hidebound stupidity of those oppositionists at DEP. Instead, the DOH is busy with its bureaucratic demiurge; trans-fatting, menu labeling, and grading local eateries that are struggling to simply survive the Great Recession. It's as if the rat invasion of the Taco Bell in the Village never happened.

And then there's the bed bug invasion-that has even reached the Brooklyn DAs office. It's time that the DOH stopped playing nanny and got back to its reason for existence-protecting the health of New Yorkers. It can do that by getting on the disposer bandwagon and resisting the competing busy body urge to tell all of us how we should be living our lives.