The Rat Czar

Last month, NYC hired its first-ever Director of Rodent Mitigation, otherwise known as the Rat Czar. No one can argue it is long past time to address this quality-of-life issue that continues to plague New Yorkers. They bring disease, property damage, and contamination, and are a symbol of societal breakdown. And the rats are also problematic.

But not everything associated with rats is bad. Rats can help control the spread of some diseases, for example acting as a natural predator of ticks, which can carry Lyme disease. In some cultures, rats are considered symbols of wealth and good luck. For instance, the Chinese zodiac features a year of the rat, which is linked with prosperity and abundance.

Instead of treating rats as a nuisance to be eradicated, what if we found ways to live with them? Architectural design has many such examples of accommodating the unavoidable:

  • brick walls having weep-holes to circumvent the inevitable water penetration
  • tall buildings having wind tunnels to allow the wind to pass through the building
  • steel left exposed to weathering to provide long-term durability

One solution to the rat problem might be to build structures with tunnels that mimic natural rodent burrows. Entire rat civilizations could be contained underground, separate from human interference.

New Yorkers have the five boroughs. Let the rats have their own burrows.
– Julie Boehm, LEED AP
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