New York City is fighting a war on two fronts. These conflicts could impact the city’s finances for years, the safety of its residents, and their quality of life.  So far, it’s a losing battle.

To be sure, the enemies are not new - nor are they confined to New York.  However, they are very visible, and numerous people feel threatened by them.  One enemy is the worsening homeless crisis and the other is the growing infestation of rodents.  There are no easy solutions in sight for either. 


A Park Bench Is Not A Home

Mayor Adams declared a state of emergency in October because the already humongous number of homeless soared to a record high; the problem was exacerbated by the flow of migrants bussed here from border states. 

The city’s Department of Homeless Services reported that a record 62,174 people are now living in city shelters.  This number surpasses the previous record of 61,415 set in January 2019, according to the Daily News.  

The Adams Administration is forecasting that the growing number of homeless and the rising costs of providing them with basic services will be at least $1 billion this fiscal year -- and it’s expected to go higher next year.    

“Local government cannot be the solution for a national crisis,” the mayor said.    

Funding for the homeless is one aspect of the problem; a related one is where to house all of them. 

“Construction is now underway for a migrant humanitarian canter at Randall’s Island,” reports the News.  “It would be the first stop where migrants bussed from border states to NYC would be processed.”  

There’s never a convenient time for a crisis, but now, with winter approaching rapidly, the situation has become even more pressured.  Moreover, the city’s shelter system is already at full capacity.  

In addition to the record-high number of homeless in shelters, the average length of stay for both single adults and families with children is also setting new records.  According to the News, adult families live there on average for 855 days.    

The mayor said new arrivals of immigrants could soon drive the shelter population much higher.


“Welcome” And “Go Away”

Kathryn Kliff of the Legal Aid Society told CBS News that the record number of people in shelters is not just because of migrants.  It’s also “a result of vast homelessness in New York City and the city failing to prioritize affordable housing for New Yorkers.  And this has been going on for years.”   

So what’s happening is that too many people are competing for too little space – and in this case the illegal immigrants are getting priority over the needs of other homeless New Yorkers. 

The mayor is pulling out all the stops in searching for solutions, and some are proving to be quite expensive.  

For example, The New York Times reports that Mayor Adams is seriously considering housing migrants on cruise ships, an idea first suggested in 2002 by then Mayor Bloomberg.  Currently, the city is also considering housing asylum-seekers on a cruise ship owned by Norwegian Cruise Lines.

But there are other ideas that are being studied or that have already been implemented.  One is renting thousands of hotel rooms for them.  City Limits reports that the city is leasing 11 hotels for homeless families.  But one problem with this is that when the city books hotel rooms for homeless families, the room rate is often higher than the price advertised to tourists.   


“You Doity Rat”

This line is often attributed to actor James Cagney, although movie buffs claim he never actually said it.  In any case, it expresses the sentiments of millions of New Yorkers – now more than ever - as the city’s rat population is exploding. 

“Everyone that knows me, they know one thing,” Adams said in a press conference October 17.  “I hate rats,” adding that “We gonna kill rats.  Rats have no place in the city and we’re going to use every method as needed.”

One plan is to limit the hours residents can put their trash on the curb.  An interesting idea, but will it work?

According to Bloomberg, rat sightings have increased 71% since the fall of 2020.  New York City was ranked the nation’s second “rattiest” city by Orkin Pest Control.  It’s estimated that two million of them live here.  

Many residents, however, probably would put that number much higher, as they seem to be all over the place: on streets, by garbage cans, in sewers, alleys, restaurants, subways, parks – in places one would expect them to be and in places no one would expect.  In fact, there is an urban legend that in some of New York’s neighborhoods there are more rats than people.

Rats have been around for ages.  They’re a problem in every city and in every state, and this plague is only becoming worse.  That’s why the mayor won’t be able to rid the city of them; at most, his plans will make a dent in the problem, although even that would be a welcome improvement. 

Resident New Yorkers may be surprised to learn that the city’s rat problem is not the only one involving animals. The website reports that raccoons are the most widespread animal in New York State.      

One related comment.  Some news websites allow their readers to comment on stories, and both of the two above received a great deal of feedback.  Most expressed hate of New York and New Yorkers, and in not very polite ways.  

If the tension level out there ever declines, the city has to figure out what’s generating all the animosity and how to address it. Meanwhile, there are even more pressing priorities to deal with.


Gerald Harris is a financial and feature writer. Gerald can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.