Roscoe’s Five Point Rat Control Plan For NYC

Because The Rats Won’t Stream the Press Conference

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Bell Environmental Services, a leading pest control operator serving New York City and its suburbs for 60 years and popularly known for its always-workin’ beagle Roscoe the Bed Bug Dog, applauds Mayor Adams’ aim to reduce New York’s out-of-control rat problems. Thus far, the city’s media blitz has been great, but until we can get the rats to see it on their smart phones, nothing will change.

“The City has the right goal of reducing rodent populations to improve the health and quality of life of New Yorkers. The stakes couldn’t be higher given the public health and social risks from these pests. We applaud the PR offensive and hiring of a Rat Czar to partner with a very committed Sanitation Commissioner,” said Glenn Waldorf, Managing Director. “The City should adopt Bell’s five-point plan of more funding, more partners, less trash, smarter permitting, and better service quality – because the rats don’t fear news headlines.”

“Any gains made in this fight have to be retained with a consistent approach or the problems will return to today’s current levels or get even worse,” he advised.

New York City went through so much during the COVID pandemic. We can’t afford to allow the next health crisis to emerge through encounters with these troubling pests. Events that were thought to be once in a century are now far more common. In 1924, Los Angeles suffered an outbreak of rat-associated plague. In the last month, NYC’s rats been found to have our modern plague, COVID, and rodents may also be responsible for the Omnicron mutation.  A 2014 Columbia University study of New York City’s rats showed these animals carry an alarming number of pathogens. Some cause food borne illnesses while others were never seen in New York before. And the rats in this study were found to have at least 18 unknown viruses.

So, what should New York City do?

1. MORE MONEY: We acknowledge that the City is in a difficult budget situation, but even when tightening one’s belt there are some areas that you simply must invest in and improve in order to prevent (worse) problems from emerging. Pest control is one of those areas.

The City announced an increase of spending on pest control by $630,000 this fiscal year ($0.07 per New Yorker) and nearly $1 million ($0.12 per New Yorker) next fiscal year for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to expand rat mitigation efforts.  That’s a start. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Increases in pest control spending help public health and prevent other problems paid for in the DOMHM’s $2.8 Billion budget or $331 per New Yorker.

The previous administration made large cuts to the sanitation budget, including $2.2 million cut from pest control in 2021. These pest control spending numbers are just a drop in the bucket of the Sanitation Department’s entire $1.9 billion budget for FY2023 or $224 per New Yorker – which is flat with the prior year. New York simply needs more spending and emphasis on pest control and sanitation. We can’t rely on city council members using discretionary funds to fill gaps.

2. MORE PARTNERS: Property owners need to help too.

  • Privately owned residences with all income levels also are underspending and typically fail to select skilled pest control companies to protect their residents. Residential buildings often spend $0.50 per unit or less per service visit and visits are infrequent. How is a vendor supposed to service multiple residential complaints, address common areas, do preventive maintenance, and provide outside protection at this price? And do this once per month? It can’t – so pest problems just continue and worsen.
  • Moreover, customer sensitivities about pests are up significantly. The pandemic caused residents to spend more time at home and grow more aware of and concerned about their encounters with pests. Working from home even as a part time situation is here to stay for many New Yorkers.
  • One customer that Bell Environmental acquired in 2021 was a 400-unit co-op building in Manhattan reflects both of these changes.  This co-op and doorman building had been spending just over 50 cents per unit per visit. The complaint log had 38 apartments that needed service, while the basement, common areas, and outside gardens were supposed to get attention on every visit. Meanwhile, the technician was on site for 90 minutes each trip. Actual results? Not so much. Rats were burrowing in the building’s landscaping threatening residents and pets. Mice were running up and down every line in the building. The basement was infested with roaches. The building residents said enough and the board decided to upgrade to a company that is capable and cares. When Bell took over, we worked diligently every visit and the number of issues dropped to zero. We work every visit to keep it that way. The residents are happier, less fearful, and are willing to pay more for these results and be insulated from the city’s problems.
  • Commercial properties should increase, not scale back on, pest control in challenging economic times and even when there are growing vacancies. Why? Because pests will expand into empty spaces and frustrate and even scare current tenants. One way to get buildings above the current 50% return to office is to make sure employees don’t have to worry about rats scurrying over their feet when they walk into their buildings. And properties that get a reputation for having issues have to work much harder to improve their name and secure tenants in competitive markets.
  • Bell’s clients, including residential apartment building, park, and commercial offices, have learned that rat control is never a “once and done situation.” Our property owner customers have invested to prevent rodents from getting access to food and shelter. They’ve installed doors and sheds to restrict access to trash, changed to tamper proof garbage cans, re-landscaped and removed certain plants, stepped up service schedules, and identified issues that need service before our company is onsite. Properties doing the right thing need cooperation from their communities and neighbors.
  • One diligent customer is located adjacent to a thoroughfare with City-maintained gardens of grasses; several nearby restaurants; and neighbors’ less well-maintained gardens. Rat control is much better when all parties and neighbors take collective action and do their parts.
  • One of the few tools that New York City has to improve its challenging fiscal situation is raising property taxes to pay for pest control and other important services. Roughly half the city’s revenue comes from real estate and commercial property values have taken a hit. While resetting property tax rates  are a difficult challenge that the city lost appetite for during the pandemic, the Bloomberg Administration used this lever in the 2000s. If property owners invest in services that improve the rat situation, it could lessen the appetite that the City may have for new taxes.
Trash piled up next to outdoor dining on NY's Bleecker Street provides rats with both food and shelter.

Figure 1. – Because what happens on Bleecker, doesn’t stay on Bleecker. Photo credit: Bell Environmental.  

 3. LESS TRASH: The City cut sanitation budgets during the pandemic, with announced budgets only being restored for future years. For a city without alleys and frequently holidays interrupting trash collection, things need to change. More service, containerization, and better sealed cans are present in other cities and need to take place in New York. Leaving so much and easy access to trash on the street means there are ready food sources for rats. One 60-pound bag of trash is easy to gnaw open and can feed up to 60,000 rats.

4. SMARTER PERMITTING: New York City needs a faster, more streamlined, and more strategic permitting process for improvements that improve rat control and to review and enforce other policies that contribute to rodent problems.

  • One large residential building that Bell Environmental services applied to the city in July 2021 to install a shed to enclose its garbage. The City took until April 2022 to approve the permit, allowing the rats to have easy access to this large food source for nine months.
  • Restaurants gaining outdoor dining has been a financial lifeline, but they also contribute to the City’s problems with rats, parking, street use, and sanitation. These restaurant sheds are governed by the Department of Transportation.

5. BETTER PEST CONTROL SERVICE: The old maxim that the only place success comes before work is the dictionary applies to pest control.  There is no better mouse trap that can solve NYC’s rat problems. Better service and hard work will. Companies need to:

  • Inspect to determine rats’ hiding places and shelters.
  • Eliminate rodents’ homes and exclude them from returning.
  • Remove food sources.
  • Trap, bait and judiciously apply licensed and appropriate materials that reduce rat populations.
  • Document and track results. Repeat over and over again.
  • All of these actions can be done using Integrated Pest Management principles that will keep New York City on a green path and contribute to LEED, GBI, WELL, Fitwel improvements and goals.

Pest control is a service not a product. The only way to get and lock in success against rat populations is to start and keep workin’. This complete and continuous plan will help our world-class City win this clash. New York is up against a smart, adaptable enemy that reproduces quickly. The rats haven’t taken a break from the rat race since they came to Manhattan hundreds of years ago. We can’t either.

About Bell Environmental Services. Bell is an integrated pest management company that has provided rodent, bird, and pest control services to New York City and its Metro Region since 1963. A pioneer in Integrated Pest Management and green pest control solutions, Bell solves rodent problems for high profile and many other NYC buildings to keep them safe from the city’s ongoing rat troubles. The company is best known for its famous canine detective, Roscoe the Bed Bug Dog. For more information, please visit

Contact: Glenn Waldorf, 973-575-7800 /