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NY population loss: Rats another reason

By HENG WEILI in New York | | Updated: 2023-12-22 10:58
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New York is still losing population, according to a US Census report this week, and there could be another reason why.

In addition to the high cost of living, the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and remote working, there are those subway platform-scurrying, garbage bag-ripping rats.

"Some people who have children and families decide they want to go to a place where their children can play outdoors, larger green spaces, you want to see animals — you don't see animals except for rats in New York," Mayor Eric Adams said Thursday when asked about the drop in population.

"So there's a combination of things," he said. "And we are getting rid of those rats, by the way."

In April, the mayor, who has frequently expressed his disdain for rats, named Kathleen Corradi the city's first "rat czar".

As many as 3 million rats dwell in New York City, an increase of nearly 1 million over the last decade, according to a recent estimate by a pest-control company in Queens.

The rodents have gorged on food waste left by COVID-era outdoor diners as well as recent cuts to the city's Sanitation Department budget, creating the "perfect storm", Julie Menin, a City Council member representing Manhattan's Upper East Side, told The Guardian in November.

"We were literally hearing from parents about rats running across their children's feet as they're walking them to school," she said.

The mayor said that "there's a combination of why people are leaving the city. The cities have become unaffordable and, you know, people who left the city during COVID for a short period of time and some decided that they no longer want to come back into cities.

"You have the remote work option where you don't have to be in an office space to do the job. You can do it from wherever, and so there's a perfect storm of reasons that cities are losing their population.

"At one time you may have lost, you know, 20,000 here, 15,000 here and now when you start to add up all of those dynamics, it's a different way of life," the mayor added.

Some see other quality-of life reasons for people moving out.

"People are getting sick of it. The lawlessness, the protests in transit hubs. Young families no longer see this as a place to raise their children," retired NYPD Lieutenant John Macari, who was born in Brooklyn but relocated to Florida last year, told the New York Post. "Criminals and migrants are being put ahead of everyday New Yorkers. As long as that continues, more people are going to flee."

Major crimes have declined this year in the city, according to the most recent statistics released by the NYPD on Dec 5.

"Overall crime in New York City dropped again in November and remains down year to date, led by continued reductions in five of the seven major index crime categories as well as the ongoing curtailment of shooting incidents citywide," the report said. "Significantly, 405 fewer people have been shot in New York City this year through the end of November, compared to the same period last year."

Crime did rise in two major categories: Automobile grand larceny was up 7.1 percent, and felony assault was up slightly, by 0.9 percent.

In the city transit system, there have been 554 felony assaults reported so far in 2023, a number that has surpassed the 539 reported in all of 2022.

New York City has experienced an influx of more than 150,100 migrants from the US southern border since the spring of 2022, according to The New York Times.

"We give them a job, they become workers, they become part of our economy, like other immigrant groups have become part of our economy," Adams said.

According to the Census Bureau report released Tuesday, nearly 102,000 people left the Empire State from July 1, 2022, to July 1, 2023, the highest number of any state. The state's population totaled 19,571,216 as of July.

Neighboring New Jersey saw an increase of 30,024 residents in 2022.

New York City's population fell by 5 percent between April 2020 and July 2022 — to 8,335,897 — according to a report Monday by the New York State Comptroller's Office.

But lately there have been signs of a rebound, particularly in Manhattan.

Jonathan Miller, CEO of Miller Samuel, a real estate appraisal firm in Manhattan, told that wealthier people still want to live in the city, and some are using it as a remote work base. "Residential is booming," he said.

New York state could lose up to three seats in the US Congress by 2030 if the population decline continues, according to a report this week by the American Redistricting Project.

New York was one of eight US states to lose residents. The others were, in order, California, Illinois, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Hawaii and West Virginia.

California, the nation's most populous state with 38,965,193 people, saw its population drop by around 75,000, a smaller number than in 2022.

Texas experienced the largest population increase in the nation, adding 473,453 people, and now has a population of 30,503,301. Next was Florida, which added 365,205 residents for a total of 22,610,726.

Percentagewise, the US Southeastern state of South Carolina had the highest growth, at 1.7 percent.

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