This article from Monday’s Jersey Journal describes yet another infested NJ apartment building (277 Bergen Ave. in Jersey City) that is going to tent and Vikane the whole structure, even though (as management remind the Journal’s readership) only some of the 44 units are infested. Smart move. Would you really want to wait until all your tenants were suffering?
“… on the advice of our exterminator, we intend to do the entire building,” Jackson said.
The fumigation will take place on three separate dates in June, he said. While the extermination is going on, tenants will have to vacate the building for several hours; those who have health conditions, such as Quinlan, who has emphysema, will have to vacate the apartments overnight.
“We are doing this at our own expense, at the cost of $8,000,” Jackson said.
“The extermination company said if we don’t handle the problem this way, and do the entire building, it could end up costing us a lot more later,” he said.
But some tenants, including Davina Waring, say the building management’s action comes too late.
She said she had to chuck her living room furniture after it became infested with the creepy crawlers nearly a year ago.
Strike one: if residents chucked furniture and other residents picked it up, that probably contributed to the spread.
Waring said she reported the problem to management, which brought in an exterminator to spray the couch. “After he sprayed the couch, the exterminator told me to vacuum it, but it didn’t do any good,” she said. She eventually threw it away.
“People used to come to my apartment, sit on my couch and start scratching,” she said. “One person thought she was allergic to my couch. I was too embarrassed to say what was really wrong.”
Strike two: not talking about the problem spreads the problem.
The building, located on Bergen Avenue between Grant and Orient avenues, is owned by the New Jersey Housing Mortgage Finance Agency and provides affordable and low-income housing.
It is subsidized through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 8 program.
One tenant, who did not want her name used, said she was able to get the building’s management to respond to her complaints about the bugs only after making calls to both HUD and the NJMFA.
However, Jackson said his office has responded to the problem whenever tenants called to complain. In fact, he said some tenants haven’t cooperated with their extermination efforts.
Strike three: education and cooperation are not extra bonuses. In the bed bug war, everyone needs to be on board with the problem, the treatment, and the follow-up.
“We even called a building meeting to explain what we are going to do about the problem but only 19 tenants showed up,” Jackson said.
Jackson also said bedbug infestation is becoming a problem throughout the state.
“The reason we have to wait until late next month to exterminate 277 Bergen is our exterminator is so backed up with similar jobs we have to wait for him to train more men to handle it,” he said.
I don’t mean to sound like I am blaming individual tenants–and certainly not the one quoted in the article. And I do understand the resistance of tenants to listening to what management tells them. This is why tenants need to organize and educate one another about bed bugs, with the help of management, in order to help prevent this happening again (more on that in a moment).
This article answers one question which came up in the comments on Jess’s post: the management paid $8000 for a 44-unit building. That’s only $182 per unit. That’s extremely economical. But sadly, unless at least 1/4 of the units are infested, the management is unlikely to see it as cost effective compared with traditional sprayings. And they should, assuming they feel they can prevent a repeat (again, more in a moment–bear with me).
My baseball metaphor is weak. The management company made a hit, a palpable hit, by using Vikane. I applaud the management for using Vikane and I hope other companies will do this when needed. But now comes the real test. As the comments on Jess’s recent post about another Jersey building undergoing the treatment suggested, education is most important–before people get bed bugs, while they’re fighting bed bugs, and perhaps most of all, once the bed bugs are entirely eliminated by Vikane.
Tenants need to feel some shared responsibility about not bringing in “found items” like used and secondhand furniture, found or bought. Even things given away by social service groups, relatives, or friends can be unknowingly infested. Tenants also need to be educated about signs to look for–I’d venture a guess that even more tenants had bed bugs than knew they had bed bugs (remember, many people do not react to bites). Still others knew and did not speak up. In order to make this bed bug-free situation persist, the management company, PCO, and tenants need to realize the precarious position that brought bed bugs into the building still exists, and they can come back. And this can be prevented (at least for a while), if everyone takes responsibility. Everyone.
If I were a tenant in 277 Bergen, or any other building using Vikane, and I were reading this, I would organize my fellow residents and work with management to bring an expert like Winston in to give a talk about how to prevent bed bugs coming back. Despite the fact that they are going to be wiped out, there is much to be learned. Otherwise, Vikane will only wipe the bed bugs out temporarily.
I know management can’t force people to attend, but residents should be the ones encouraging others to go. If I were a manager, I’d offer an incentive, say a free buffet meal, or a pair of movie tickets, to encourage attendance by residents at an educational session. It would be money well spent.