Finally.

The Daily News reports that New York City is going to get a bed bug education campaign.

The article reports that there will be town hall meetings about bed bugs in Washington Heights (1/28), Astoria (2/5) and Bushwick (3/12).

Housing officials will roll out the campaign with a town hall meeting Jan. 28 in Washington Heights, where the creatures have rampaged through tenements, churches, bodegas, taxi garages and upscale co-ops overlooking the Hudson River.

Residents there have been under siege: The number of complaints has skyrocketed from 62 in 2005 to 366 last year, when 119 landlords were hit with violations.

More community forums will follow in two other neighborhoods with recent bedbug outbreaks: Astoria on Feb. 5, and Bushwick, Brooklyn, on March 12.

Tenants, homeowners and community leaders will be taught in English and Spanish how to identify bedbugs, exterminate them in a safe and low-cost manner and guard against future contaminations.

Just as important, they’ll be told what not to do, like spray an apartment, which can scatter the pests, or pour gasoline on mattresses, which poses a fire hazard.

This is all good, but I hope it will be just the start of a wider campaign to raise awareness. Television, billboard, newspaper, and bus shelter advertisements should be implemented to raise awareness, though there has been no suggestion this will happen. If the city wants to fight bed bugs, it is going to cost money, but not nearly as much as continuing to ignore the problem would have cost us in lost tourist income.

Awareness is just the start; as we’ve been saying for a long time, we need local government to track infestations. Someone needs to know where the bed bugs are and how widespread infestations are. Calls to 311 are just the tip of the iceberg. The city is still in denial about the true scope of the problem.

Another goal of the campaign: Alerting immigrants with limited English to watch out for unscrupulous merchants.

“Selling refurnished mattresses to Dominican immigrants who think they’re brand new – without telling them they’ve been reserviced – is a big business in my district,” said City Councilman Miguel Martinez (D-Washington Heights). “Unfortunately, many of those mattresses are crawling with bedbugs.”

This is important. The resale of mattresses should be banned. It should be illegal to pick up and resell any items marked as infested with bed bugs. And people need to learn to mark them as such.
Ultimately, though, the city is going to need to take a tougher line with landlords and tenants. Tenants must report bed bugs, landlords must treat them properly, PCOs must be contracted to come back until bed bugs are gone.

City inspectors should consider employing bed bug dogs to help them detect bed bugs, since visual inspections are time consuming and quick inspections often miss bed bugs.

Finally, financial assistance will be needed on several levels: homeowners and landlords may need assistance with proper treatment. And elderly, disabled, and other people will need physical and financial assistance with doing proper preparation for treatment.

I hope the city will institute a bed bug task force and staff it with entomologists who are true experts on bed bugs–and I hope these experts will be listened to and their suggestions followed. And soon.

This is no hero on a white horse, folks, but it is a start.

Check out the Daily News story here.

Update later in the day on 1/15:

Here’s a video from ABC7 Eyewitness News at 5 pm today.  (Click on the number “2” next to the bed bug photo, to see the video.)

It is not clear what the city is going to do, besides hold these meetings and work on the mattress resale issue. I guess we will know more tomorrow when the plan is officially unveiled.

The ABC7 video features Jeffery Eisenberg of Pest Away, and a Pest Away tech reporting that they use two chemicals in fighting bed bugs (Suspend and Gentrol).

The newscasters quipped to one another at the end,

“You said you’d get a new bed, right?”

“And you said you’d get a new house!”

Sorry ladies. It’s not that easy.

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1 hopelessnomo January 15, 2008 at 5:14 pm

The city buried information about the first seminar here:

http://www.nyc.gov/html/hpd/html/buyers/small_prop.shtml

There’s also a link at the bottom of the page to subscribe to email updates of this sort of information.

Or you can access a PDF of the invitation to the first session in Washington Heights here.

2 Winston O. Buggy January 15, 2008 at 7:35 pm

There is supposed to be a City Council press conference on Wednesday that will
announce the valiant efforts of the city council in, ensuring bed bug survival by
passing LL37, opps I mean in regard to bed bug education and how they are not going to ban the sales of bed bug infested mattresses.

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