Sweet Dreams Project: Astoria businessman donating mattresses to those with bed bugs

by nobugsonme on May 23, 2008 · 5 comments

in bed bug bites, bed bugs, bed bugs in public housing, mattresses, new york city

The Sweet Dreams Project seems like a nice idea: the Daily News reports that an Astoria businessman, Marcos Maldonado, is raising money to donate new mattresses to kids in Queens, to replace those “infected” with bed bugs:

A bedbug epidemic in her Astoria apartment building forced Ellie Maldonado, 42, to discard her mattress last year.

Now, her brother Marcos Maldonado is spearheading an effort to raise money to replace the infected mattresses of his neighbors living in the Astoria Houses. He has named the project Sweet Dreams.

“I named it this because I want the kids to have sweet dreams as they sleep,” said Maldonado, 43, who has lived in Astoria for 16 years and is the owner of M&D Decorators on Astoria Blvd.

As I said, it’s a lovely idea, and very generous. Mr. Maldonado’s heart is in the right place, and he clearly knows firsthand how much bed bugs can mess up someone’s life and home.

However, and I hate to be a wet blanket (no pun intended), but I am concerned this program may only provide a temporary respite from bed bugs. Discarding bed bug-infested mattresses does not usually eliminate bed bugs from the home. In most cases, the room itself is also infested, along with sofas and other items.

It can give people a false sense of security. Bed bug bites may be lessened or eliminated for a while. But the bed bugs may still be present in smaller numbers, and can quickly bounce back.

What’s more, tossing out infested mattresses isn’t recommended by bed bug experts in most cases. Sealed mattress encasements tested to keep bed bugs out (or in this case, in) allow the mattress to be used and prevent a discarded mattress from going on to infest someone else’s home.

It’s essential that the apartment and the neighboring apartments are all bed bug-free, or these new mattresses will quickly become infested too.

Maldonado is donating mattresses to residents of NYCHA apartments, and the city seems pleased:

Maldonado hopes to establish a permanent, registered nonprofit organization to provide mattresses to families in the Ravenswood and Queensbridge houses next, he said.

City Housing Authority officials lauded Maldonado’s work.

“NYCHA applauds community involvement where community members want to help each other improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods,” a spokeswoman said in a written statement.

What isn’t mentioned outright in this article is the fact that it’s the NYCHA’s responsibility to eliminate bed bug infestations from NYCHA apartments.

I hope that their procedures involve inspecting all adjoining units (top, bottom, and all sides) when a complaint is made. I am concerned this is not so, since the fact sheet linked above says nothing about neighbors being inspected.

To their credit, the NYCHA does tell tenants to destroy any items which must be discarded. But my experience is most people don’t research such instructions before discarding things.

And destroying alone is not enough: mattresses should also be sealed to prevent spreading bed bugs while they await collection by the sanitation dept. or by trash-pickers.

I hope the NYCHA is also educating tenants about the signs of bed bugs, which can be quite subtle.

And I hope Mr. Maldonado will donate good mattress encasements for use with the donated mattresses.

1 Winston O. Buggy May 23, 2008 at 9:18 am

While we all applaud any action of goodwill, I can’t help but wonder if providing mattress encasements alone might not be a better and certainly more cost effective approach. Obviously if we talk about replacing mattresses we also must consider box springs as well. For about $120 – $150 you can buy quality encasements for both which are easier to distribute, cheaper and less likely to spread the problem by other people picking up the discarded mattress and box spring.

2 hopelessnomo May 23, 2008 at 12:08 pm

I’m not sure what purpose is served in criticizing this man’s project.

If the mattresses are already gone, they need to be replaced.

3 monroe May 23, 2008 at 1:14 pm

Sounded like a good suggestion (& certainly more practical & useful)rather than a criticism to me

4 Winston O. Buggy May 23, 2008 at 2:09 pm

Please note I am not criticizing the concept of the project, which is helping people who are plagued with bed bugs, who as reported can not afford to replace infested mattresses. I am merely trying to point out a more efficient way to help two or three times the number of people while at the same time reducing the overall risk that infested mattresses will be picked up by folks or stored inside buildings till they are properly disposed of thereby allowing the spread of bed bugs in the core area of the buildings. I did not note anywhere in the article that the mattresses had already been removed other than his sister who threw hers out. And if indeed these mattresses which are expected to be replaced the last week in July have all already been thrown out, then let the program make changes for the greater good in the future based
on sound science and economic realities. Especially if the future holds the establishment of an ongoing funded organization. If this is to be interpreted as criticism than so be it but if it is, it is certainly offered as constructive criticism in the truest and most productive sense. PS I have made several attempts to contact Mr. Maldanado to offer my comments and input. If you have contact information please forward. Thank You.

5 nobugsonme May 23, 2008 at 5:40 pm

Hi hopelessnomo,

I think I was reading this the same way Winston did. This article does not say that children whose mattresses were already discarded are getting new ones. It simply said mattresses would be bought to replace infested ones.

Obviously if they’re already gone, that’s another story. Encasements are still a good idea, though.

In any case, Mr. Maldonado’s generosity is laudable and I don’t think anyone was saying otherwise.

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