Every New York City mayor in history has fought rats. But for current Mayor Eric Adams, the war on vermin has taken a peculiar turn as he tries to polish his image as the town's chief exterminator.
Adams appeared before a hearing officer Thursday, for the second time, to challenge two fines he received from his own health department for allegedly allowing baby rodents to take up residence in his Brooklyn home.
Speaking by phone, Adams disputed the findings of an inspector who found rat burrows along a fence and "fresh rat droppings" in front of the mayor's dumpsters.
The city issued the subpoenas on December 7, just one day after another hearing officer dismiss a previous fine of $300 for not controlling the rat population on the same property. Each new ticket could also carry a fine of $300 or more.
The mayor, who usually prides himself on carrying himself with a bit of "arrogance" during his public appearances, was restrained and respectful during the hearing.
Adams denied having a rat problem. His own inspections of his property, he said, turned up no signs of rodents. Adams said he pays an exterminator monthly and spent $7,000 a year ago to keep the property free of rodents. At one point, the mayor could be heard during the half-hour hearing searching through electronic files for his receipts and other documents to present his case.
Adams, a Democrat, also assured the hearing officer that his tenants were following city rules on how to handle trash and recyclable materials.
“We all don't like rats, and we're all cooperating together,” Adams said.
A handful of reporters listened as the mayor appeared surprised by the most recent citations, saying some of the alleged violations observed actually occurred on his neighbor's property.
City records show Adams has received at least 18 citations over the years at his Brooklyn address, many related to trash handling. He many times he just paid the fines, but not this time.
The hearing officer told Adams that he would decide within 30 days whether any fines were due.
In his first year in office, Adams launched battles against guns and homelessness, and rats also proved irritating to a mayor who is currently interviewing candidates for a new director of rodent mitigation, a title quickly nicknamed the » rat czar «.
Before becoming mayor, Adams, as Brooklyn Borough President, was known for his dislike of rats. He famously turned his stomach when he demonstrated a trap for reporters that relied on a bucket filled with a poisonous vinegary soup to drown rats attracted by the smell of food.
The trap was not very effective, nor was any other attempt by previous mayors to defeat the city's rat population.
Former Mayor Bill de Blasio spent tens of millions of dollars in efforts to reduce the rat population in specific neighborhoods through more frequent trash pickup, more aggressive home inspections and replacing dirt basement floors with concrete.
In an earlier attempt that turned out to be more amusing than deadly, city officials unveiled a plan to use dry ice to suffocate the rats in their burrows, but drew laughter when workers chased, but never caught, one of the rats. the fleeing vermin.
Adams has regularly held press conferences to lament that rodents are a scourge to New York society.
“Let's be clear: I hate rats, we have too many of them and we need to get rid of them,” he said in June while announcing a proposed city spending plan.
In November, he signed a list of legislation aimed at reducing the city's rat problems, including new rules limiting how long trash can sit on sidewalks and establishing what the city calls "rat mitigation zones."
Soon after, he began searching for a rat czar who, according to the job description, would be "highly motivated and somewhat bloodthirsty."