Rat Czar Takes Rat Walk With Prospect Heights Rat Group
Rat Czar Takes Rat Walk With Prospect Heights Rat Group

Rat Czar Takes Rat Walk With Prospect Heights Rat Group

PROSPECT HEIGHTS, BROOKLYN — PROSPECT HEIGHTS, BROOKLYN — Before a local rat control group could patrol their Prospect Heights blocks for rodents, they had to address a pressing matter: dog poop.

Poo, plus a neighbor who won’t stop throwing food onto the street and a new proposal for commercial trash containers were all part of what began as a typical meeting of the Sterling Committee on Rat Awareness and Mitigation — or SCRAM — late Monday on a members’ stoop between Underhill and Washington avenues.

And like every meeting, the Sterling Place residents soon would wrap up and head out on their monthly “rat walk,” where, armed with powerful flashlights, they would look for rats, signs of rats or the conditions that encourage them.

Find out what's happening in Prospect Heights-Crown Heightswith free, real-time updates from Patch.

But “tonight,” as SCRAM co-founder and psychotherapist Jesse Hendrich told put it, “is not like other nights.”
Click Here: Spain soccer tracksuit

That night, the rat czar was coming to Sterling Place.

Find out what's happening in Prospect Heights-Crown Heightswith free, real-time updates from Patch.

“She. Gets. It.”

Some greeted the news of Corradi’s hiring last month — chosen from over 900 applicants who applied to a “viral” job posting — with skepticism, since she has no formal training as a biologist or a rodentologist, as many rodent experts are called.

Michael Parsons, an urban ecologist at Fordham University who wrote an expansive article for Vital City last March on how the city can better manage rodent populations, told NPR that, while the new czar deserves a chance, he was concerned that Corradi didn’t appear to have the credentials to take on the intractable issues.

But world-famous rodentologist Bobby Corrigan told Patch that he had a long one-on-one meeting with Corradi and found her to be “very impressive.”

A month in, it’s still unclear how exactly this interagency coordination will work and what type of authority Corradi will have to truly tackle rodents, since all experts agree that would mean a radical transformation of how the city deals with its trash — a change that the city is just starting to fully explore.

“Not My Rats”

Residents in Prospect Heights have long taken action into their own hands. Lincoln Place resident Carol Morrison attempted to fulfill the job of czar years ago by convening a number of interagency rat meetings between DSNY and DOH.

And since the pandemic, SCRAM has effectively organized their block to join the anti-rat crusade by using lidded bins instead of leaving trash in loose bags by the curb. According to data collected on their rat walks, sightings have plummeted after getting more than 60 percent of their neighbors to lid-up.

Like excited youngsters on Christmas Eve, the eager members of SCRAM walked over to Duryea Presbyterian Church, where they were to meet Corradi, the city’s first rat czar since the days of Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Right on time, Corradi, a former public school employee who has successfully led several rodent mitigation efforts in her life — some even as a child — greeted the group wearing all black and a NYC Department of Health baseball cap.

With her was her wife, who was finishing an ice cream cone from Social on Washington Avenue and two visiting friends who were eager to join. They had all walked over from Corradi’s Crown Heights apartment.

“This might be their first — and last — rat walk,” Corradi joked.

The new czar told the assembled members of SCRAM, as well as Morrision, that she appreciated their efforts to work together and not point fingers.

“The question of ‘It’s not my rat, it’s your rat,’ is not how we solve this issue,” Corradi said. “How you’re truly banding together is what I’m really looking to replicate citywide.”

One neighbor, Victor, a 30-year Sterling Place resident told the czar that the trash-focused efforts are working.

“We used to see 20 rats,” he said, “now it’s only one or two.”

A Czar, A Celebrity

As the walk continued, neighbors came out to see the commotion, and to get answers from the new czar.

Corradi noted that extermination-forward approaches are only a small part of the strategy (“It’s all about food,”), the difficulties in finding a true “rat census” and how to tell the difference between a hole in the ground and a rat burrow by stamping it down and collapsing it and “if it’s resurfaced in the next two days, it’s active.”

Achieving clarity on what to do about the entrenched rats in the city’s tree pits is one of Corradi’s top initial tasks, she said.

A pile of Cheez-Its on the sidewalk left members apoplectic, then speculating on the circumstances that resulted in such a horrific sight. Spilled while exiting a car? A pro-rodent saboteur?

Near the end of the walk, Rome, a super for a handful of buildings on the block, was rolling a pair of garbage containers to the curb and greeted the group, now nearly 20 neighbors.

“Oh — that’s the rat czar!” said Rome in shock, like he was meeting a Hollywood star. “Are you kidding me?”

Kamy Wicoff, a co-founder of SCRAM and also a psychotherapist, noted that it took over a year to convince his boss to use trash containers.

“That lady,” Rome said pointing to Wicoff, “she really set it off, she convinced us to get these [containers]. She was persistent.”

Once the walk concluded, the czar gave her thanks to SCRAM and went home as the Sterling Place residents assembled for a beer to continue talking trash — and rats.

Credit could go to the new trash bins or the large, chatty group. Or just maybe the rats could sense that the czar was there.

Get more local news delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for free Patch newsletters and alerts.