The Challenges That Await the New Rat Czar

Good morning. It’s Thursday. We’ll meet the city’s new rat czar — and hear from someone who wrote the book on rats. We’ll also get details on a $462 million settlement with the e-cigarette maker Juul over claims that it aimed its marketing at young people.

Robert Sullivan’s friends kept telling him he would be perfect for a high-visibility job Mayor Eric Adams was looking to fill: rat czar of New York City. Officially, the director of rodent mitigation.

Sullivan had an unimpeachable credential. He wrote the book on rats. That was the title, “Rats.”

Still, Sullivan did not apply for the job, and Adams announced on Wednesday that he had chosen Kathleen Corradi, a land use and sustainability expert with the city’s Department of Education. Adams used a musical metaphor, calling her a “maestro” who would coordinate efforts to address New York’s rat problem. The news release from City Hall suggested something more exalted, saying in its subject line that “Mayor Adams anoints” — not “appoints” — Kathleen Corradi as the city’s rat czar.

“The rats are going to hate Kathy,” said Adams.

Corradi, who will be paid $155,000 a year, will supervise the rat experts who already work for the city. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene not only has an Office of Pest Control, it has the rodentologist Robert Corrigan, who has been installing movement sensors on streets to monitor rats’ behavior. There is also a citywide rodent task force.

The mayor has had a singularly personal relationship with rats. As the owner of a townhouse in Brooklyn, he has fought tickets for rat infestations. As mayor, he has called rats “public enemy No. 1.” And there is no question that they are a scourge that causes headaches for policymakers: Rat sightings documented by inspectors doubled last year, according to city statistics. City Hall attributed the jump to an increase in inspections. (Cutbacks in trash pickups brought on by budget reductions in the pandemic may have figured in why people reported seeing more rats. Adams has reversed some of the cutbacks.)

Sullivan, who said that “the presence of rats indicates a problem in how the city is functioning,” said he was “hopeful” after watching the news conference at which Adams introduced Corradi. She said that “rats are a symptom of systemic issues, including sanitation, health, housing and economic justice.”

Adams said Corradi’s mission was to “take the lead” on a multiagency effort to try new mitigation techniques and expand outreach and education efforts.

At the same time, Adams announced that the city would spent $3.5 million on a new rodent mitigation zone in Harlem.

“Starting off in one neighborhood makes sense — that’s the way mayors have tried it before,” Sullivan said. “But immediately the question is, great, you say you’re taking care of rats, but are you helping people?”

Noting that Corradi had been a teacher before she became an administrator, he said that as the rat czar, “a lot depends on the kind of teacher she has been and will be,” he said, “because city rat control isn’t so much about the power of the people in charge as it is about investing in the power of the city’s neighborhoods and communities.”

Sullivan said New York should follow the example set by the Canadian province of British Columbia, which banned rat poison. A permanent ban on what are known as second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides took effect in January after an 18-month trial. CBC News quoted officials in British Columbia as saying the risk was that animals that consumed poisoned rodents could themselves be poisoned. Corradi said on Wednesday she was open to more humane methods of rat eradication.

Sullivan mentioned a couple of rat infestations that he had seen recently “that were pretty impressive.”

Specifically he said, he watched “a lot of rats running in and out of a car,” not through a door that had been left ajar, but through the wheel wells, to the engine compartment. They left the car to eat from restaurant garbage and went back to the car, he said.

“I saw that probably a month ago and I thought, ‘Hmm, how is that rat-czar job search going?’ he said, adding: “I don’t want to give away what street it was on, but it shares my name. I guess that’s SoHo.”


Enjoy a warm, sunny day near the mid-80s. The evening is mostly clear, with temps dropping to the low 60s.


Suspended today (Passover, Orthodox Holy Thursday) and tomorrow (Orthodox Good Friday).

The latest New York news

Trump civil trial: Lawyers for former President Donald Trump asked a federal judge for a one-month postponement of Trump’s civil trial over an allegation he raped a magazine writer in the mid-1990s.

Out-of-state abortion patients: With abortion now prohibited in many states, the city is advertising its abortion services in Georgia, Texas and Florida.

Trigger warnings: When Cornell University’s student assembly voted to require faculty to alert students to upsetting educational materials, administrators pushed back.

Doctor charged with sexual abuse: A urologist who worked at two prominent New York hospitals was charged with carrying out a yearslong series of assaults on two patients starting when they were minors.

Police union leader bows out: Patrick Lynch, the head of the police officers’ union in New York City — the nation’s largest — will leave the position at the end of his term.

A $462 million settlement with Juul

The e-cigarette maker Juul agreed to pay $462 million to New York, five other states and the District of Columbia to settle lawsuits claiming the company aggravated a vaping crisis with its aggressive marketing of e-cigarettes to young people.

My colleagues Christina Jewett and Julie Creswell write that the settlement signals an end to many of Juul’s legal problems. It has now reached settlements with 47 states and territories, as well as 5,000 individuals and local governments.

Juul’s efforts to broker deals settling the lawsuits have cost nearly $3 billion so far, an enormous sum for a company still seeking official regulatory approval to continue selling its products. The latest settlement follows others that took Juul to task for failing to warn young users that the high levels of nicotine in e-cigarettes would prove addictive.

The New York lawsuit noted that the company had embraced the use of social media hashtags like #LightsCameraVapor. Letitia James, the New York attorney general, said on Wednesday that the company had given glamorous parties in New York City and the Hamptons that “falsely led consumers to believe that its vapes were safer than cigarettes and contained less nicotine.”

“Juul’s lies led to a nationwide public health crisis and put addictive products in the hands of minors who thought they were doing something harmless,” said James, who noted that the state would get nearly $113 million from the settlement. California stands to receive nearly $176 million.

A spokesman for Juul, Austin Finan, said the company had not admitted wrongdoing in the agreement. He said the settlement meant that Juul was “nearing total resolution of the company’s historical legal challenges and securing certainty for our future.” And, citing federal data, he said that underage use of Juul’s products had declined by about 95 percent.


Sandwich search

Dear Diary:

When I was a senior in high school, I worked at a kosher cheese store on the Lower East Side. There were many kosher restaurants in the neighborhood in those days.

Fifty years later, on a business trip to the city, I set out to see if I could find any of them.

I got hungrier as my search continued, but I couldn’t find any of the old places or anything else that appealed to me.

Finally, I stumbled on a pickle store. Hoping it also sold sandwiches, I scanned the huge blackboard that listed all of the offerings.

“Can I help you?” a man who was helping another customer called from the back of the shop.

“I actually was hoping for a pastrami sandwich,” I said.

“Do you want it on rye?” the man asked.

“That would be great,” I answered excitedly.

He pointed toward the sign and shook his head.

“This is a pickle store,” he said.

— David Siegel

Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.

Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.

Melissa Guerrero, Jeffery C. Mays, Ed Shanahan and Dodai Stewart contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].

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