Boston and bed bugs: Mayor Bloomberg in NYC could learn a thing or two

by nobugsonme on January 8, 2007 · 20 comments

in bed bug prevention, bed bug treatment, bed bugs, boston, government, housing laws, information and help, massachusetts, new york, new york city

This is what Boston is doing about bed bugs:

Apparently there’s a division of the Boston Housing Dept. Inspectional Services (ISD) that inspects housing for bed bugs. Click the following link to load a PDF of their Bed Bug Advisory Sheet, which says briefly what bed bugs are, and notes that landlords are responsible for eradicating the problem in Boston.

Here’s what the Boston ISD do:

To effectively address bed bug infestations in Boston, ISD endeavors to educate inspectors, property managers, exterminators and the general public on the nature of bed bugs, bed bug prevention and the proper extermination of bed bugs. We endeavor to assist owners, tenants, and pest control operators in exterminating for bed bugs by attending extermination visits, assisting with education & preparation and by sharing our knowledge and experience on best practices.

Bed Bug Inspection Orders:

  • We require written extermination reports, within 14 days of a notice of violation, and prior to closing a case. Although Bed bug infestations do not get resolved quickly, we endeavor to work with owners who have contracted licensed Pest Control Operators, who have treatments programs in place, and who provide written documentation on the treatment programs.
  • Our Standard bed bug notice of violation also requires that owners inspect all units in the dwelling, and they must treat all horizontally and vertically adjacent units to the infested unit(s).

Let me repeat: the laws applicable in Boston require landlords to treat all horizontally and vertically adjacent units, and to inspect every unit in the building. Are you listening, New York?

In Boston, they’re actually proactive about bed bugs:

Education & Outreach: Boston ISD has conducted various outreach efforts over the years which:

  • Targets areas with a concentration of infestations.
  • Educates and offers inspections to those residing in the targeted area.
  • Engages & educates the local community leaders and activists.
  • Utilizes the media attention to educate and raise awareness of residents in all parts of Boston.

If a landlord is notified by tenants about bed bugs, and does not eliminate them, tenants should call the Housing Inspection Division at (617) 635-5322.

The city has a Bed Bug Advisory PDF about bed bugs in rental housing. It explains the laws, and also gives advice about dismantling or destroying infested furniture before discarding it.  It says that anyone living in rental housing in Boston that is infested with bed bugs should contact their landlord, and follow up with the Boston ISD (at the number above) if the landlord does not solve the problem.

Tha Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation also has its own fact sheets on bed bugs in English, Portuguese, and Spanish (here). The fact sheet says that if your Boston landlord does not respond to your request for extermination of bed bugs, you can call the city Housing ISD as above or the Boston Public Health Commission at 617-534-2865; you can even make an anonymous tip about bed bugs to the city via the 24-hour city hotline at 617-961-3297.

The Allston Brighton CDC Bedbug Eradication Initiative even offers monetary assistance with extermination (the money, by the way, came from state funds and a private corporation):

The Allston Brighton Bedbug Eradication Initiative provides education and assistance to Allston Brighton tenants and property owners who have been affected by bedbug infestations.

Extermination Incentives For Property Owners and Homeowners

Property owners who are treating units in Allston Brighton can receive up to $200 for each unit. Homeowners in Allston Brighton also qualify for this assistance. To qualify, you must provide the following documentation:

  • Proof of ownership.
  • Address and unit number of each Allston Brighton unit being treated. Only apartments in Allston Brighton are eligible for these funds.
  • An Integrated Pest Management Plan (IPM) for every unit. Bedbugs are difficult to treat and the pesticides used are toxic. An IPM is necessary for effective treatment.
  • Detailed prevention plan for every unit. Describes how you will prevent another outbreak from happening

To apply for funds (until they run out), please print and fill out the tenant intake form or the property owners/homeowners intake form, attach the necessary documentation, then send the forms to:

Bedbugs Eradication Initiative
Allston Brighton CDC
320 Washington St., 3rd floor.
Brighton, MA 02135

This is a government responsibility, in my opinion, but since city government is slow to act, perhaps NYC also needs a community organization like the ABCDC to take the lead on this.

What I could not find anywhere on the net was information about those Boston Bed Bug Warning stickers (as per our banner photo). I found this one article about the Allston Brighton CDC (again) saying 20 people had gone around on moving day (Sept. 1) in 2004, the busiest day for moving in Boston, and put the stickers on discarded furniture. Is this the only time those stickers were used? I think they’re wonderful and the city should be giving them out and requiring their use on all discarded furniture.

The City of Boston is doing only so much, and obviously needs to do more. Bed bugs could be eradicated again and local governments can be a part of making this happen. But compared to what’s happening in NYC, Boston is already doing a lot. Social service agencies in NYC and elsewhere could also learn a thing or two from those folks at Allston Brighton CDC. I just wish they had more money. Perhaps hotel chains might consider helping non-profits who want to work on this issue; after all, they’re helping to spread bed bugs!

Okay, so that’s Boston.

Here’s what New York City is doing about bed bugs:








Not so much, huh? There was some talk about banning the sale of used mattresses (yawn). We’re way past that now. NYC has a housing dept. but they don’t really have their act together about treating bed bug infestations as a separate housing issue from any other pest problems. And they should, as should the health dept.

Boston, unlike New York City, has taken the bed bug threat seriously as something that needs to be halted. In August 2006, the Boston Globe reported that Boston had had 351 “official” bed bug cases (i.e. known to the ISD) since 2002. 351 in four years. And Boston has taken much more action to prevent their spread, recently, than NYC, even though 311 calls to report bed bugs in NYC were over 1195 in 12 months between 2005-2006. Even accounting for the population differences, 351 official cases in 4 years is not much compared to what we’re getting in NYC now. It’s time for NYC to take drastic action on bed bugs.

Update (1/10/2007): I contacted the folks at the Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation. Ava Chan gave me permission to post her reply below:

We added a link to your blog from our bedbugs page. Thank you for mentioning Allston Brighton CDC and our efforts.

About the red stickers: Boston’s Inspectional Services Dept. generated a whole bunch of them, and we also ordered some similar ones — they resemble parking tickets and are eye-catching. On our version, we include the City of Boston’s 24 hour hotline, and also Allston Brighton CDC’s contact information. We worked with volunteers on the Sept. 1 Moving Day effort in 2004, 2005, and 2006. At last year’s Moving Day, we noticed that property owners and management companies were much more vigilant about taking care of discarded furniture and cleaning up as people moved out — good news! They had dumpsters available for their tenants in the days before and after Sept. 1.

The Greater Boston Task Force that Juan mentions includes communities adjacent to Boston , including members of the Cambridge Inspectional Services Dept. It’s still an uphill battle — while the City of Boston has acknowledged the seriousness of bedbugs infestations, many of the neighboring towns still believe that bedbugs haven’t spread to them, even though the get complaints from their residents, even though they are very close to Boston– within 10 miles of Boston’s downtown. On the other hand, we know that bedbug control is now a popular topic at many trade association meetings of pest control operators, health inspectors, etc.

It’s a long battle–thanks for your work.




Ava Chan, Community Organizer

Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation

1 JimsGotBedBugs January 9, 2007 at 7:10 am

Bad grammer and english from something with “mumbles” name on it? No way.

Incidently- I’m itch and bite free today… A first for 2 weeks.

2 Bugalina January 9, 2007 at 8:51 am

Will someone please phone Mayor Bloomberg on Friday on his “Ask the Mayor ” radio talk show..hosted by John Gambling…1800 848 WABC I think it comes on at ten oclock and runs for one hour…I already called..and he …Mayor Bloomberg..was clueless…he said “Oh, I understand its just a matter of using a few chemicals “…duh Mayor Bloomberg…you understand WRONG…Then he sarcastically said, “Well, I don’t think we need to appoint a bed bug Czar”…Really…Mayor Bloomberg….ask the landfill how many mattresses are showing up…!! Let’s get some real, honest statistics from the Health Dept…You have a problem on your hands…and you are ignoring it…thus you are contributing to the epidemic spread of a monsterous, destructive, blood-sucking bug… = luggage = people = beds = HOTELS….lots of them in NYC…just waiting to suck the blood of tourists…..Bugalina

3 nobugsonme January 9, 2007 at 9:43 am

Jim, there will be days like that.

4 jessinchicago January 9, 2007 at 9:24 pm

This is some of your best work yet, Nobugs. Keep it up- there’s no way this atrocious oversight on the part of the NYC officials can go on for much longer. Especially with all the diligent and proactive work you and the other NYC bedbuggers are doing. It’s only a matter of time.

I would also like to point out that many other major cities- including my beloved Chicago- are doing a fantastic job of ignoring (probably by choice) the growing bedbug epidemic. I believe people here are still very much unaware of the financial and emotional devastation that comes with bedbug infestations- and our city officials are doing nothing to educate the general public. Sure wish I knew one or two other Chicagoans to collaborate with on this issue. Hint, hint. Come on, I know you’re out there. Let’s unite and make ourselves heard, like our brothers and sisters in New York. I can’t do it alone, but with some help, I know we can make a difference.

Jim- I plan to comment on the “DIY Pest Control” post Nobugs started, so stay tuned. And I’m glad you got some relief last night, but, as Nobugs already said, there will be days and nights like that. Stay on your toes.

Bugalina- I sure hope someone answers your call to contact Bloomberg on Friday. It would be an investment of maybe a few minutes of time, but could make a big impact. If I were a New Yorker, I’d do it in a second, believe me!


5 nobugsonme January 10, 2007 at 12:05 am

I have some news– I’ve been in touch with the folks at the Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation (ABCDC). They really are doing good work, though of course, they’re a communuity organization. They’re making things happen and picking up the slack (with help from coroporations as well as the state), though I’d like to see city, state and federal government making eliminating bed bugs a priority.

I got an update on what’s happening there and will post it tomorrow.

6 nobugsonme January 10, 2007 at 11:47 am

Update: Please re-read the original post above to see more information, from Ava Chan of the Allston Brighton CDC.

7 nobugsonme January 10, 2007 at 4:18 pm

Yes– Parakeets, about those suburbs ignoring the problem, that’s exactly what Ava Chan says (in the update I added today to the post):

“It’s still an uphill battle — while the City of Boston has acknowledged the seriousness of bedbugs infestations, many of the neighboring towns still believe that bedbugs haven’t spread to them, even though the get complaints from their residents, even though they are very close to Boston — within 10 miles of Boston’s downtown.”

Anyone in such an area might get in touch with Ava and the Greater Boston Task Force to see if more can be done in those neighboring areas.

It’s important to note that ABCDC is a community agency; not an arm of the government. They do community organizing. We need more of this around the bed bugs issue, and we need social service organizations and nonprofits to help make it happen, and help us pressure the government to enact change.

8 parakeets January 10, 2007 at 4:11 pm

I live in the Boston area. I have to say that while Brighton and Allston deserve praise for getting their act together, the rest of the Boston area often falls far behind as the e-mail quoted in this post states. The town in the immediate Boston suburb that I live in simply does **nothing.** Maybe they are pretending that the bedbug problem doesn’t exist in my upscale town, that it is a problem limited to towns like Allston and Brighton? There seems to be am erroneous class distinction in the Boston area about bedbugs–the misperception that bedbugs are limited to the poor, to inner cities, to immigrants, and to students.

It is not enough for one landlord, or one city, or one area of the country to address the problem. This is a bigger problem that is being ignored. Bedbugs are spreading quickly. I know bedbugs supposedly don’t spread disease, but I bleed fresh blood when I’m bitten every night — and we know that blood can tranfer disease. When I go to an emergency clinic I have to apply my own Bandaids because of blood, yet I can be bitten and bleed every night in my own bed and no one will do anything about it? Bedbugs are a health hazard that is totally being neglected. Shame on the U.S. Because this problem hit the disenfranchised segments of our society first and not the wealthy single-home owners, bedbug sufeffers are being ridiculed (as in the Village Voice article) or treated as if they have a phobia (as I found out at a center for anxiety where I went for my bedbug infestation), or not diagnosed or even believed. Grrrrr!

9 Bugalina January 10, 2007 at 4:43 pm

People with single family homes and money dont “come out of the closet” with their bed bug problems….they hire exterminators who charge them thousands and thousands of dollars….It would all be so much better if our Public Health Officials would get on board and educate people about this…When I was dealing with my exterminator they told me about the calls they received daily..from suburban people….kids bringing them home from college…husbands traveling on business bringing them home from hotels in London and China…but until people “discharge” this issue..we are going to be living in the dark ages of denial….Bugalina…

10 Doug Summers MS January 11, 2007 at 12:15 am

Mandatory collection of statistics from PCO’s might be a more accurate way to measure the extent of the problem. The do-it-yourself population is still under counted. And people that use more than one PCO might show as an over count. Still gathering information from the PCO’s may be the most stable measure short of mandating disclosure from the building owners.

The San Francisco guidelines mandate disclosure which should (in theory) lead to accountability.

Until we have good compliance with enforcable disclosure laws, we might want to focus on laws mandating the PCO’s to report infestations to the public health agencies.

We require the medical community to report certain problems; why not require the PMP’s to report incidents of bed bug infestations to a public agency for the purpose of epidemiological surveillance?

11 nobugsonme January 11, 2007 at 1:04 am

HI Doug,
I agree completely. PCOs should have to report every case treated. It would allow the city to map the problem. It would also force people to understand how large it is.
I’ve made the point a number of times that here in NYC, the city’s statistics are so woefully under-representing the scale of the bed bug epidemic. Pest Away, a local PCO, told the VIllage Voice last month that it had 100 calls about bed bugs every day. And that 85 of those are legitimate cases, not scares. If they really get that many a day, on average, then that’s 22,100 bed bug cases in one year from ONE PCO (granted a popular one). There are hundreds of PCOs in the 5 boros of NYC, and more in surrounding areas that work here. The city had 4600 complaints of which 1195 were actual cases in the year from summer 2005- summer 2006. If Pest Away’s statistics were not exaggerated, we have a huge epidemic here.

I’ve suggested in the past that we need a study like the one done in Toronto in 2003, which tracked bed bug cases (with data from PCOs) that year. It’s on the CDC website (search for CDC in our search box and you’ll find an article linking to it). But mandatory reporting, period, rather than a one-year study, is a much better idea, and you’re right too that this is a good idea for a first step.

I think citizens have a right to see the data, for example, check the status of buildings. But I have a feeling that won’t fly here–landlords have the upper hand.

12 Bugalina January 11, 2007 at 9:11 am

Doug and NBOM….You both raise excellent points..But, by not keeping statistics the government officials can “underplay” the epidemic…which is exactly what they want to do…That is why, we here have to find a way to expose the coverup….Can you imagine that if a person checked into the Waldorf Astoria, or the NYC Marriott or any highpriced hotel, and then found a few roaches crawling in their beds !!! They would FLIP out….BUT….Bed Bugs do not rear their ugly heads….so the hotels can deny this bug epidemic…they know that most unsuspecting guests will wake up with only a few bites…which can remain easily unidentifiable by the ignorant eye…these poor unsuspecting fools will have enjoyed their stay in the hotel, pack up their bags and go home…there they unpack their luggage…out crawls a female adult bed bug and their home in Ohio or Tennessee is well on its way to an infestatation…by the time they realize this…the hotel is Home free ! This is the terrible truth about bed bugs…Yes some people wake up in hotels with bites all over…those are actually the lucky ones because the hotel cannot deny their responsibilty and the guest can sue and hopefully win….So the bed bug denial WORKS for government and big business…That is why we have to keep trying to help people and somehow we have to get people to come out and demand help….these are my sentiments on it…also I think more and more insurance agents are going to start getting calls from their insureds to find out if the catastrophic loses can be covered under there policies….will we see special Bed Bug Insurance coverage being offered ???? I would like to see insurance cover the cost of a bed bug dog inspection, they promote preventative measures, like smoke detectors and house alarms…so why not bed bug sniffers…… Bugalina

13 buggedinbrooklyn January 11, 2007 at 5:54 pm


while I agree that calling the mayor, maybe each and every week might help awarness…

only a march to city hall will help.

we who have been ATTACKED in our homes need to make the public aware that such a financial, and emotional hardship it is realy like…
but we maybe even need to show that we sufferers, are not going to stand by and be ridiculed (as in the Village Voice article)…or the Mayor too.

ladys, I fear that we are going to have to take steps far worse then we may think before we are taken seriosly.
or maybe someone could drop a few bedbugs in the mayors office…after all, it’s not like the bugs are a health issue. lol, jk.

anyway, I might have my hands full, but if I could help in any way, just ask.


14 Bugalina January 11, 2007 at 7:05 pm

buggedinbrooklyn I am afraid you are right….I think , when warmer weather sets in..we just may have to organize a march on City Hall…demanding answers to bed bug infestation trauma….When the Mayor says….”Oh.I thought it was just a matter of laying down some chemicals”….we must realize that we are not in good hands with this ignorance….Mr. Mayor..It is much more than laying down a few chemicals….it is a living horror !!! It is physically and mentally exhausting…not to speak of financially exhausting….so bugged..stay tuned..Bugalina..

15 Bugalina January 13, 2007 at 10:45 am

An interesting proverb found online : Mayor Bloomberg take note….

One tiny insect may be enough to destroy a country.(6) (Ancient Arabic)

Certainly the bed bug is going to have an extreme adverse effect on the Hotel and Tourism Industry, and the Real Estate economy….how can it not.. and how long before the truth comes out about them being found in schools…office bldgs. etc. etc. etc…….

16 jessinchicago January 15, 2007 at 9:50 pm

Hey! You guys march, and I’m in, I’m serious. And I’ll do anything I can to help.

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