TOPLINE

New York City rats, famished by restaurant closures and emboldened by starvation, are plaguing outdoor dinerscrawling on their shoes and sitting on benchesas business owners call on the city to address the rodent problem.

KEY FACTS

New York City has allowed restaurants to serve diners outdoors since June 22, leading to reports of meals disrupted by rodents.
Any mammals, if you take the food away youre going to have abnormal behavior show up really quick, said Dr. Bobby Corrigan, an urban rodentologist, to Gothamist on the citys rat resurgence.
Giacomo Romano, the owner of Ciccio in SoHo, told NBC New York that a rat had run across one of his customers foot during his meal. 
Romano and other restaurateurs are asking the city to reduce the citys rodent population, but the odds look slim amid a budget crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Sanitation Departments rat mitigation budget has been by $1.5 million to $12.3 million, meaning 25% less trash pick-up in areas with significant rat issues, according to NY 1.
PROMOTED
Vigilantes have taken it upon themselves to exterminate the citys rats for fun: Elias Schewel and his dog Sundrop hunt rats four nights a week in Brooklyn, killing as many as 20 rats in four hours, according to NY 1, though this amounts to no significant dent in the overall population.
“Its actually been a great pleasure of mine watching [Sundrop] learn how to make a kill, Schewel told the TV station. Its like whack-a-mole.
The Department of Health and Human Hygiene said rodent complaints reached record lows during March, April and May. 

Big Number

2 million. Thats how many rats live in New York City, making it home to the third largest rat population in the United States following Chicago and Los Angeles, per Newsweek.

Key Background

Rats have long plagued New York City residents as garbage from the citys nearly 27,000 restaurants provide an all-you-can eat paradise for the rodents. Corrigan says that when the restaurants closed in New York panic ensued among the rats, manifested in behaviors like infanticide and fighting. He believes that the rats took to the sewers to feed on feces and flushed goods. 

Further Reading