Characteristics of the Built Environment and the Presence of the Norway Rat in New York City: Results From a Neighborhood Rat Surveillance Program, 2008–2010


Characteristics of an urban setting such as New York City (NYC), including readily available putrescible waste and ample underground infrastructure, make it highly attractive to the Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus). To identify property and neighborhood characteristics associated with rat presence, recent inspectional results were analyzed from over 77,000 properties in the Bronx and Manhattan. Variables capturing the location and density of factors believed to promote rat populations were tested individually and in combination in models predicting rat activity. We found that property-specific characteristics typically associated with high garbage volume, including large numbers of residential units, public ownership, and open-space designation (parks, outdoor recreation, or vacant land) were the most important factors in explaining increased rat presence across neighborhoods in NYC. Interventions that involved improved garbage management and street sanitation within a designated area reduced the likelihood of finding rats, especially in medium- and high-poverty neighborhoods. Neighborhood characteristics, such as being near a railroad or subway line, having a school nearby, the presence of numerous restaurants, or having older infrastructure, also contributed to the increased likelihood of rats. Our results support the use of built environment data to target community-level interventions and capture emerging rat infestations.

Speaker / Author: 
Sarah Johnson, MS, MPH
Caroline Bragdon, MPH
Carolyn Olson, MPH
Mario Merlino, MS, MPH
Sancia Bonaparte, MPH
Month Year: 
June 2016
Page #: 
Publication Month: 
June 2016