NYC
04/01/2011 02:09 pm ET Updated Jun 01, 2011

Rat 'Epidemic' Could Invade New York City This Summer

Rats "bigger than kittens" are set to lay siege to New York City, according to people who used to be paid to get rid of them.

They told AM New York that deep cuts to the city's pest control staff could cause a spike in rat infestations.

"There's going to be a major epidemic during the summer with the rodents," said Rosemarie Vasquez, a former city pest control aide.

From AM New York:

Citywide, the 311 hotline received about 10,500 rodent complaints in 2010, up more than 5 percent from 2009. In 2011, complaints are up 9 percent through the beginning of March compared to the same period a year ago.

The Health Department insists it does not expect the staff cuts to have an effect on New York's rodent problems, largely because the Pest Control Bureau within the department is still doing inspections and exterminations.

The department has also tried a new approach to combating the rats by inspecting entire neighborhoods simultaneously and then returning every eight to 12 months. The program saw positive results in the Bronx and is being implemented throughout the rest of the city this year.

Daily Intel's Chris Rovzar is skeptical of the claims made by AM New York's sources:

Basically, in an effort to get their jobs back, these pest workers are trying to terrify you (and by you, I mean Intel Nitasha) into thinking that without them, soon enough you're going to be sharing your picnic table in Bryant Park with a fearless, Garfield-size rodent who's going to systematically put his paws on every single one of your french fries before you can get to them, such that you have to cede them to him in a polite but shaming show of defeat.

Last year's pests du jour, bedbugs, have gotten more attention from public officials lately. The city announced earlier this week that it would go after landlords who repeatedly ignored bedbug infestations.

Let's hope the City Council and Bloomberg Administration haven't taken their eyes off the ball when it comes to rats, or we could all wake up with them crawling on our faces or worse.