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NYC Rat Map (meredithmmyers.com)
56 points by meredithmmyers on Dec 4, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 26 comments

I lived in the Lower East Side for 11 years, on Ludlow Street, from 1995-2006. It was common to see rats on the street at night, and one evening while walking home, a rat ran towards me and jumped. It landed on my leg, scurried up and jumped off.

But nothing quite as frightening as finding three rats one evening zipping around in my kitchen, ripping apart ketchup packets. Or the time my downstairs neighbors had an angry rat trapped in their kitchen (which was disposed of with a hockey stick).

I called the NYC Health Department hotline maybe 5-6 times. At that time, calling the number led to a voice mail menu, and the first options was "if you would like to report a rat infestation, press 1". This is no joke, some buildings were really and truly infested.

The city did nothing but to place poison rat traps on the streets. Only once did someone respond and come to our building, he just suggested that we fill up all known holes in our building with steel wool. The local hardware store had bulk packages of the stuff for sale, a popular item.

Our Chinese landlord solved the problem by calling a neighborhood expert. He brought his gigantic cat, who lived downstairs in the basement for several weeks. After that, we had no more rat problems for a long time.

> He brought his gigantic cat, who lived downstairs in the basement for several weeks.

There's an interesting business opportunity! Rent-a-Cat, or if you want something more distributed, an online service that allows people to lend cats to one another :)

I used to hang out down there in the early 2000's. I remember walking one night somewhere in alphabet city. I was approaching a vacant lot on one side and a pile of garbage bags on the other. One of the bags was moving.

As I continued to walk, now directly between the garbage and the empty lot, a huge pack of rats maybe 40 or 50 strong streamed out of the trash bag, deflating it completely. They ran over my feet up my legs, and then down again, disappearing into the lot.

I was young and drunk so it didn't bother me all that much but it was pretty nasty in retrospect.

I love the simplicity of the solution.

I wonder why the cat population doesn't swell and match the rat population.

Stray cats/dogs are incredibly rare in NYC, especially Manhattan. The structure in place that allows people to report unsupervised animals works too well.

Looks like this is the data source: http://data.cityofnewyork.us/resource/3q43-55fe?$limit=10000

This map is great in terms of personal use. "Are there rat reports near where I live?". But would be great to see someone hack together a heat-map or something that better displays density.

Edit: Here's a quick stab: http://jsbin.com/dihiwetoja/2/

Thanks! I am hoping to add a heat map. And yes the data is from Socrata's Open Data Platform API (https://nycopendata.socrata.com/Social-Services/Rat-Sighting...)

Have you considered a chloropleth[1]? Similar effect to a heat map but likely much easier to implement.

Just shade each of your already defined regions by [sightings/area].

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Choropleth_map

I hadn't for this project - to be honest I didn't have a clear plan for this project, it was just something I threw together in a few hours for fun because I thought the dataset was amusing :) A chloropleth is a great idea though. If I find the time to improve this, I'll definitely keep that in mind!

Anyone manage to get a screenshot? jsbin says it has expired.

Oh shit the LES is pretty damn red

All the polygons are of vastly different sizes, making it very hard to see if an area has a much denser rat reporting than another. The high numbers cover larger areas and the low numbers cover smaller areas.

Thanks for the feedback! It's just a simple little app I made for fun and there's plenty of room for improvement. It is open source so anyone is more than welcome to pitch in.

My parents place had a recent mice infestation. Which funnily enough happened because my neighbours decided to renovate their attic. So they jumped that ship and headed for my parents shores. My little sister who lived their at the time, had the great idea of feeding the neighbours/stray cats, with milk and other goodies. After a few days the mice were no longer harrassing my parents.

I'd hazard I guess that it's merely a few people aggressively reporting sightings near their home and that the vast majority of the rat population goes un-reported and is fairly evenly distributed. Unless I'm mistaken and it's only department employees reporting them, which would still have a bias, based on worker personality.

I just asked my Manhattan born and raised girlfriend if she ever reported a rat, and her response was, "No. Why would I do that?"

Absolutely not true. The NYC Health Department handles calls directly from residents, and long-time city residents know that they need to call if they want the city to do anything to help.

Just read the comment above yours.

A similar model for London, especially in the city and along the river, would be a constant - the old adage about never being more than a few feet from a rat are spot on. Bear in mind, the officially reported numbers are often a fraction of the real population. Rats are fairly intelligent creatures and are adept are remaining mostly hidden, even in the well populated areas.

A friend who makes a very decent income as a pest controller has very interesting stories to tell about the size of the rat population he encounters, the shift in their diet over the years (more fat and junk food remains), and worryingly, their increasing resistance to the wide range of controls in use today.

I think a heatmap would look good here, one with nice flowing color gradients, maybe with a separate marker layer over the top. Leaflet-DVF looks pretty promising for that sort of thing and it comes with nifty markers. Of course a cute marker icon that looked like a rat would be good too. I'd prefer to see the building/address info displayed in a marker pop-up rather than on the left. Map apps are fun, I've made a bunch myself with Leaflet.

Hey, thanks for commenting. I am hoping to add a heat map - I had tried using https://github.com/pa7/heatmap.js and the code is still actually in the application source. Sadly that heat map couldn't handle the massive amounts of rat data NYC has to offer :) I'll check out Leaflet-DVF, thanks for the tip!

I'd recommending piping it through a Heroku app. Just request the data from your app and have the app process the data. It's slightly less transparent, but it's a lighter footprint on the browser itself.

Two weeks ago, I actually met a city health department employee who focuses on rat populations in NYC. She was doing a survey of businesses along Avenue C (Alphabet City) in reaction to complaints of a swelling rat population on Avenue B. Apparently, Hurricane Sandy had washed significant parts of the rat population from Avenue C to Avenue B...and with the start of the cold season, those rats will be looking for warmer places to hang...perhaps on Avenue B.

This is one of those times when the simplest name is really attention-getting. Good choice.

Wow.. Very cool. Interesting how there are definite clusters here and there.

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