Rats will follow wherever people go, because people have a habit of leaving a real mess in their wake. Garbage from fast food and home cooking ends up in garbage cans, and these are often thrown outside. These are torn open by foxes, cats and other animals, and then rats join the party too. In fact, rats are usually the first to hunt out these delicious trash-treats.
But now you know that fact, you have a better understanding of why they are opting for more residential areas over wild ones. It's not difficult for them to gain entrance to homes and commercial properties, and wherever a human is, a five star dinner banquet isn't far behind. The population of New York City is over 8.4 million people, as of 2013, and each of of those people will eat three or more times per day. Think of all those crumbs, leftovers, and wrappings, still coated in food, that gets brown in the trash. All of that is food to a rat, and to many other scavengers also. That's why there are so many rats in NYC.
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