Mayor Eric Adams’s zealous efforts to overturn two rat-related summonses targeting his Brooklyn rental property ended with a split decision, as a judge on Monday upheld one of them and ordered him to pay a $300 fine.
Mr. Adams’s unusual fight against City Hall has now involved three rat-related summonses. In December, the mayor successfully convinced an administrative law judge to dismiss the first one, after a health department inspector found Mr. Adams had failed to control rats at the rowhouse he rents to tenants in Brooklyn.
But the same inspector issued the mayor two more summonses the very next day, which brought Mr. Adams back to another remote court hearing last week.
One summons noted the presence of “active rat signs,” including a rat burrow along the fence’s edge, fresh rat droppings, and an “active rat runway” — a reference to a path created by a rat’s frequent passage.
In the second, the inspector found recyclables on the ground in the mayor’s front yard, which she said created “harborage conditions that encourage the nesting of rats.”
Mr. Adams’s relationship with rats is long and fraught. He claims that as a child, his home was so overrun by rodents that he and his siblings kept a pet rat called Mickey.
And yet with great regularity, he says he hates rats. In one of his defining moments as Brooklyn borough president, Mr. Adams demonstrated a new rat-killing device for the media, an episode that involved ladling dead rats out of a chemical-filled vat.
The demonstration earned him the enmity of animal rights activists, who had formerly considered the self-professed vegan an ally.
At the hearing last week, the mayor came bristling with evidence — including a video that he said showed the rat burrow was on his neighbor’s property, not his own.
Samantha Chetrit, the administrative law judge, did not find Mr. Adams’s video evidence of the burrow persuasive, but she dismissed the first summons, finding that the mayor had presented enough evidence to suggest he was trying to control his personal rat problem.
She ruled that the mayor’s provision of receipts showing he had spent nearly $8,000 on continuing extermination services amounted to “a meritorious defense” that he was in fact trying to control rats, even if those receipts all bore the same date.
“I note that the receipts presented at the hearing all had an issuance date of February 8, but I did not find this fact fatal to the documents’ reliability when considering the nature of automated invoices and Mr. Adams’s credible testimony that he only prepared the evidence he had thought would be relevant to the case,” Ms. Chetrit wrote in her decision.
But she upheld the second summons, despite Mr. Adams’s provision of evidence he said proved strong anti-rat habits, including putting his recyclables in clear plastic bags and the purchase of a metal bin to hold those recyclables. Mr. Adams even said he had spoken to a Department of Sanitation worker, who told him how to properly store recyclables in clear plastic bags.
“No food products are in these plastic bags,” Mr. Adams told Ms. Chetrit last week, during the half-hour hearing. “Just cardboard, bottles and all of the things that are supposed to be recycled.”
Ms. Chetrit was unswayed.
“The photograph presented by Mr. Adams at the hearing shows multiple plastic bags, full of recyclables on the ground next to the garbage bins, not in rodent-proof bins,” she wrote.
Putting clear plastic bags full of recyclables on the ground “could provide shelter or protection for rodents, which amounts to a harborage condition,” she wrote.
Fabien Levy, a spokesman for Mayor Adams, said the “mayor is grateful that one of the two summonses was dismissed, and he is reviewing the second decision. One decision is clear, however: The mayor still hates rats.”