Throughout his career as a public official, Mayor Eric Adams has zealously thrown himself into one of New York City’s most unending wars: the fight against rats.
As Brooklyn borough president, he proudly demonstrated a rat-drowning trap that drew cries of revulsion from the city’s hardened press corps. Now, as mayor, he’s putting out a call for someone who considers rat extermination a “dream job.”
On Wednesday, the city published a job listing for a director of rodent mitigation, which a City Hall spokesperson described as a “rat czar.” Based in City Hall, the individual will report to Meera Joshi, the deputy mayor of operations, and will be paid a salary between $120,000 to $170,000.
New York City residency is required, along with a bachelor’s degree and proficiency in Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint.
The job description also calls for other qualities not typically associated with city workers. “Swashbuckling attitude, crafty humor, and general aura of badassery” are listed as qualifications, as is a “virulent vehemence for vermin.”
The new job comes amid a series of sanitation initiatives, which includes a proposal to push back trash pickup (and rat meal) times as well as increased funding for rat mitigation. And in a clever promotional bid, the Sanitation Department recently unveiled a $48 T-shirt that reads a quote made famous by department Commissioner Jessica Tisch: “The rats don’t run this city. We do. NYC Sanitation.”
The newly created position also comes on the heels of a recent order by the mayor to sharply curtail city hiring as part of a fiscal belt-tightening effort. At the same time, the municipal workforce has been marked by high attrition, attributed to a range of factors that include increased hiring by the private sector and Adams’ steadfast refusal to allow a hybrid work schedule.
Turning the vanquishing of rats into the role of a high-ranking City Hall official is not unprecedented. As deputy mayor, Joseph Lhota was designated rat czar under former Mayor Rudy Giuliani. When Lhota ran for mayor himself in 2013, he touted his introduction of mint-smelling trash bags designed to repel rodents.
For mayors, taking a stand against rats is a political no-brainer. In August, Xochitl Gonzalez, a writer with The Atlantic, penned an open letter to Adams that acknowledged the host of thorny challenges on his plate, from crime to affordable housing.
“I am here to help you get a win,” she wrote. “A simple way to get New Yorkers back in your corner. Two words, one person: rat czar.”
Given the city’s budgetary pressures and the current mayor’s lust for rat-killing, the next rat czar may face special pressure.
In a sign of the role’s significance, the mayor himself spelled out the stakes.
"There's nothing I hate more than rats,” Adams said in a statement. “Getting our city clean and ridding our streets of these filthy creatures are key to our recovery,”