How Many New York Subway Stations Are Infested with Rats?


Yesterday I was waiting for the G at Nassau Avenue when I saw a rat on the platform. There was nothing unusual about this particular rodent (one of what is estimated to be about 10 million rats in the city); he skittered away along the wall, heading toward and then disappearing into a hole about the size of a quarter (how do rats do that?), and I watched him with the same level of interest that I employ when I finally get it together enough to listen to my voicemails—which is to say, not much. But a group of people near me—a middle-aged couple and their early 20s daughter—who watched that rat with a great deal of interest, and screeched in unison when they saw it disappear into the wall. And I don’t know, call me jaded, but I can’t imagine being that shocked by the sight of a rat on a subway platform. After all, haven’t they heard the maybe-true-fact that New Yorkers are—at all times—never more than six feet away from a rat? And, I mean, aren’t there rats on every subway platform?

Well, no! It turns out that there are not rats on every subway platform! Gothamist reported on the recently released results of a New York Straphangers Campaign study which includes a borough-by-borough breakdown of what percentage of subway stations have had rat sightings. And the results are surprisingly low! It turns out that, in Brooklyn, only 15% of subway stations had rat sightings. The only borough with a higher percentage of rats is the Bronx, coming in at 21% of rat-infested stations. Only 13% of Queens’ stations and a lowly 10% of Manhattan stations have rats, numbers which seem unfathomably low! Admittedly, I’m only speaking anecdotally here, but I can’t think of a subway station that I’ve been at where I haven’t seen a rat! They’re not always on the platforms, sure. And I understand that this study was just looking at platform conditions and thus didn’t account for all the rats frolicking on the track beds like they were innocent little subway kittens or something, when in fact they are not cuddly felines, but are probably not-so-distant relatives of the dreaded ROUS. Even so, I find it hard to believe that so few rats were found on the platforms. I can only attribute such low numbers to the fact that rats are sneaky and creepy and were probably laughing from their little hiding spaces in the walls, preparing to emerge the second the guys with the clipboards walked away.

Oh. This study also revealed that there are a lot of stations with peeling paint, and busted lightbulbs, and water damage. And while it might seem like none of those things are as important as the rat population, they are! Because you definitely don’t want to be standing on some dark, dank platform, with lead paint chips falling in your hair like some kind of unholy snow, and the sound of water dripping filling your ears and torturing your senses, only to realize that, while waiting for the C train, that you’ve been surrounded by dozens of hungry, red-eyed rats, who are preparing to pounce and devour you from head to toe. In short, let’s clean up those  subway stations! And happy Halloween.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen

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