A dead rat at rest in a Manhattan alley. Associated Press

MIT visualizes how the city is swarming with rodent-based complaints.

If there was ever a data visualization that could make the skin crawl, it's this one: a history of 311 calls that shows the sewer rat's complete dominance over New York.

Put together from city data by the folks at MIT's "You Are Here" project, the verminous viz contains 38,163 location-tagged rodent complaints from 2010 to the fall of 2013. The tiny white specks that swarm all over the map represent rat sightings, evidence of rats, or foul conditions suitable to rat life. They come in an average of 28 times a day. Of the five boroughs, Brooklyn takes top prize for infestation with 31 percent of the total volume of complaints, while Manhattan and Queens are the runners-up with 22 percent each.

The visualization's creators have included a helpful graph showing how screams of Eeeeek—rat! fluctuate over the seasons. In hotter weather, the number of complaints shoot up, which MIT says is also true for many other kinds of 311 issues. Here's more from the data team:

The rodent population as reflected in the complaint locations are very similar to the concentration of people in the city. Queens has significantly less rodent complaints when compared to the population, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island have more. 

The zipcodes with the most complaints of rodents are largely in Brooklyn. 

And these are the five zipcodes where people are fretting the most about unwanted whiskers:

About the Author

John Metcalfe
John Metcalfe

John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.

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