NYC appoints rat czar


April 14, 2023

Photo: Katie Dobies/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Photo: Katie Dobies/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

New York City officially appointed Kathleen Corradi as its rat czar to handle the city’s rat population.

Kathleen Corradi is a former Brooklyn, N.Y., charter school teacher who has led the Department of Education’s sanitation efforts for years, according to the news release.

“I guess you could say fighting rats is in my blood,” Corradi said at the press conference.

On April 12, she was named the city’s first-ever rat czar. She said she vowed to use science to curb New York City’s deepening rodent crisis.

“I will bring a science and systems-based approach to reducing New York City’s rat population, with a strong focus on cutting off the food, water and shelter rats need to survive,” Corradi said at a press conference in Harlem’s St. Nicholas Park after Mayor Eric Adams formally appointed her to the rat czar post.

“You’ll be seeing a lot of me, and a lot less rats,” she said at the press conference. “Pizza rat may live in infamy, but rats and the conditions that support their thriving will no longer be tolerated in New York City — no more dirty curbs, unmanaged spaces or brazen burrowing. There’s a new sheriff in town.”

Corradi’s new title, which she’ll earn $155,000 annually, is formally called the citywide director of rodent mitigation.

She’ll be tasked with coordinating the Adams administration’s war on rats — a pet project priority for the mayor, who frequently lets the public know how much he despises the four-legged pests. His obsession with slaying rodents took a particularly bizarre twist earlier this year, when he had to fend off summonses for a rat infestation at his Brooklyn home.

Corradi will be going up against the city’s slew of rats alongside the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and renowned urban rodentologist Dr. Robert Corrigan, who has begun installing movement sensors on city streets to monitor rat behavior and is a Pest Management Professional Hall of Famer (Class of 2008).

Adams, who has been looking for a candidate since November to take on the top pest extermination job, said his administration conducted a “nationwide search” and interviewed hundreds of applicants before settling on Corradi.

Beyond touting her dual degrees in biology and urban sustainability, Adams said Corradi is an “emotionally intelligent thinker” with a deep passion for fighting rats.

“This is almost a job that’s made for her,” Adams said. “As a child, she was doing petitioning to get rats out of her community.”

The appointment comes at a time that the local rat crisis is escalating, fueled by a complicated mix of factors that include New Yorkers producing more household trash due to pandemic-era work-from-home policies.

According to city data, the 311 hotline logged 9,003 rat complaints between Jan. 1 and April 1 — an average of 99 per day. That compares to an average of 93 per day over the same period last year; 74 in 2021; 58 in 2020, and 70 in 2019, the data shows.

Those data sets do not include complaints about rats in public housing complexes or on public transit.

“Rats are a quality of life issue. They’ve plagued our city for generations, and they are synonymous with chaos, uncleanliness and disorder,” said Deputy Mayor of Operations Meera Joshi, to whom Corradi will report.

Since becoming the Department of Education’s sustainability manger in 2015 and then its director of space planning in 2021, Corradi has developed the city’s “Zero Waste Schools” program and led the agency’s rodent reduction efforts, according to a biography provided by Adams’ office. On the rat front, she crafted pest mitigation plans for nearly 120 city public schools with persistent rat problems — resulting in 70 percent of the locations reaching their compliance goals.

Before those roles, Corradi was an elementary teacher at the Explore Charter School in Brooklyn’s Prospect Lefferts Gardens.

Corradi said her first order of business as rat czar will be working closely with the Department of Sanitation and other agencies on reining in the food supply for the vile critters.

Photo: GlobalP/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Photo: GlobalP/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

“As anyone who’s seen the movie ‘Ratatouille’ knows, rats love the same foods humans do. That’s why every anti-rat initiative starts with making sure food-related waste gets into bins that rats can’t,” said Corradi.

Some sanitation advocates have questioned how effective the delayed set-out times will be, and argued the only topnotch method for cutting off the rats’ sidewalk spread is universal containerization, whereby all trash would be stored in sealed cans.

The Department of Sanitation is in the midst of a months-long study exploring the feasibility of containerization in the city. Adams said New Yorkers won’t “find an administration that is more serious” about the concept.

But he added that universal containerization can’t happen overnight, citing a need to develop new garbage pickup methods.

“There is a process to getting this city to become the cleanest city in America, which we’re going to do,” Adams said.

Along with the Corradi appointment, Adams announced a $3.5 million investment in a new “Rat Mitigation Zone” that spans all of Harlem and is designed to accelerate anti-rodent efforts in the area.


About the Author

Ellen Wagner is a former digital editor for PMP magazine.

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