Days after returning from protests in Germany, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city would be putting $32 million toward an effort to eradicate rats from parts of the city.
The expensive multi-agency project aimed at removing 70 percent of the city's rat population—estimated to be about 2 million—includes a series of new regulations and fines on buildings, the purchase of thousands of new trash cans, and increased trash pick-up in targeted areas.
"We refuse to accept rats as a normal part of living in New York City," de Blasio said. "This $32 million investment is a multi-pronged attack to dramatically reduce the rat population in the city's most infested areas and improve the quality of life for residents."
The city will purchase 336 solar-powered trash compactors for $7,000 a piece, which adds up to more than $2.3 million. It additionally will replace 1,676 remaining wire trashcans with steel cans and spend $16.3 million to replace dirt-basement floors in housing authority buildings with concrete floors.
The greatest effect of the rat reduction plan, however, will likely come with a series of new regulations on residential buildings and businesses.
One such regulation will require any building with 10 or more units to put out trash at 4 a.m. or face fines, which will also be increased.
The plan will also require all food service establishments in targeted areas to enroll in the city's "organics collection" program, which aims to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions by collecting food scraps separately from trash and converting it to clean energy. Residential buildings in targeted areas will also be pushed to enroll in the organics program.
Laws will also be proposed to increase fines on businesses for illegal dumping from $1,500 to $5,000 for first time offenses, and up to $20,000 for additional violations.
The increased fines will be accompanied by a "three-month enforcement blitz" by the city's department of sanitation.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, better known as PETA, criticized de Blasio's plan for targeting a "rat problem," when it really is a "trash problem."
"New York City doesn't have a rat problem; it has a trash problem," PETA Vice President Colleen O'Brien told the Washington Free Beacon.
O'Brien praised efforts to step up trash collection efforts, but said that the city's stepped up extermination efforts "will only accelerate the breeding of survivors and inevitable newcomers."
She said that rats are just "trying to eke out a living just like any New Yorker."
"The long-term solution does not lie in the mass slaughter of small animals who are trying to eke out a living just like any New Yorker," O'Brien said.
Some supporters of the plan highlighted the increased participation in the organics program as an equally important effort as rat reduction.
"Improving quality-of-life in and around public housing in my district is a big priority for me, and this is going to make a big impact," said a city councilman who chairs the sanitation and solid waste management committee. "Also, encouraging residents and businesses to participate in the organics collection program will keep our streets cleaner and help further our goal of reducing waste that goes to landfills."
Washington, D.C., has deployed cats to reduce rat infestation in targeted neighborhoods.