NYC Department of Health tells press about movie theater bed bug complaint

by nobugsonme on October 24, 2009 · 11 comments

in bed bugs, bed bugs in the workplace, bed bugs in theaters, new york city

The New York City Health Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) apparently received an anonymous tip last week that the UA Theater Sheepshead Bay 14 on Shore Parkway in Brooklyn had bed bugs.

Fox 5 News reports that

A manager on site did not want to speak with Fox 5’s Ti-Hua Chang about the reported problem, but a spokesperson for Regal Cinemas, the chain that runs the theater, issued a statement saying, in part, that “there exists no current health or safety risk for our guests or staff.”

Fox 5 found out about this because Celina De Leon (of the NYC Department of Health) emailed someone at Fox with the following message:

“The Health Department received an anonymous report last week about bed bugs at this theater. The Health Department worked with the theater manager … who indicated that they hired a pest control professional who responded to the problem.”

(Note, that memo is reproduced in the video segment below, but not in the short article accompanying it.)

It isn’t clear when Fox was contacted by De Leon, but obviously, this report was not made public until the theater had had a pest control firm in to “respond.” And, of course, we’re also not exactly sure what they responded to or how.

Now, the interesting thing here is not that an anonymous tipster told the NYC DOHMH that a movie theater had bed bugs.

Nor is it the fact that the theater then hired an environmental services firm to “respond to the problem.”

The real news here is that a New York City agency is passing along news about reported bed bug infestations in public to the news media.

Wow. That is new!

What’s next?

An official NYC-sponsored version of the Bed Bug Registry, warning others of infestations around businesses in the city?

Okay, don’t hold your breath on that one, but I do think this is a very interesting development.

It certainly puts the pressure on other businesses to respond to potential bed bug issues — so they can avoid such publicity, or at least show they responded quickly and appropriately.

It suggests that others who positively identify bed bugs in public places in New York City — whoever else they notify, such as the business owner — should also call the Department of Health.

Now, can New York City get a bed bug public education campaign?
An overhaul of the bed bug inspection process for tenants?
Some help for homeowners, landlords and business owners who are suffering both financially and from bed bugs, so they don’t cut corners with treatment?
Help with those difficult cases, where no one seems to be responsible for helping with prep?

I can’t wait to see what the New York City Bed Bug Advisory Board is working on.

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1 cilecto October 24, 2009 at 10:38 am

The theater spokesman us correct. Loss of property, loss of job and financial ruin (and the potential collateral damage to a family member who is neglected when a caregiver is busy fighting BB) are not, in and of themselves health and safety hazards. So, he’s trying to make it sound like there’s no problem by hiding behind the “BB don’t transmit infectious disease” meme.

2 nobugsonme October 24, 2009 at 2:26 pm

Hi cilecto,

I had understood the theater spokesperson’s comments to be about the safety of the theater now — after the PCO had cleared it as bed bug-free (after their visit) — rather than as a commentary on whether bed bugs cause health problems or not.

3 nobugsonme October 24, 2009 at 3:45 pm
4 Winston O. Buggy October 24, 2009 at 4:46 pm

I am glad to see the the theater reacted responsibly and it seems had already addressed or were in the process of addressing the problem when contacted by the DOH. Certainly the theater did not unleash the creepy crawly Cimex as a Halloween promo, but rather the creatures of the late night double feature picture show were brought to the theater unwittingly (or at least at children’s price) by movie goers, and the theater reacted. What I do find questionable is that a DOH employee took it upon themselves to alert the media, especially since the theater was addressing the situation. Was this a case of clear and present danger, was the theater stalling and ignoring the problem NO!, was it warranted to yell fire in foxes ear. If indeed the theater as many others who act properly in a timely manner to address issues especially not those of their making should an individual abuse their position and e mail news agencies, It would think not. And while bed bugs are a serious matter, trust me on this there are more important things afoot that are not reported . Perhaps the DOH employee just didn’t like the film or perhaps it was the trans fat in the popcorn butter , Quick email fox …..

5 nobugsonme October 24, 2009 at 6:54 pm

Hi Winston,

I am sure there are many more serious cases (bed bugs and otherwise) not reported to the news media. It is very interesting that this DOH employee took the plunge.

I don’t think she did not like the movie, though: there’s no evidence she went there at all.
FOX reported she was tipped off by an anonymous caller.

6 Winston O. Buggy October 24, 2009 at 7:10 pm

Was jesting about the movie part and the trans fat in the pop corn is a comment about the city. But based on the available information the DOH employee overstepped boundaries and this is not a whistle blower case.

7 nobugsonme October 24, 2009 at 9:31 pm

Yes, that does appear to be correct, Winston!

8 cilecto October 25, 2009 at 7:12 pm

NoBugs. The theater’s PR person’s statement (from Knoxville, TN) said simply that there is no threat to health of safely at the theater. This should reassure the public that the theaters are safe (and stem a mass exodus to the DVD player). Define “safe: Bear in mind that the “conventional” wisdom is that BB are a “nuisance”, but not a health/safety hazard. So, treatment may be complete or treatment is in progress or treatment has not yet begun, but in all these cases, there’s no threat to “health and safety”. All that said, (I believe that) there will be “tipping” point, where BB are assumed to be in all public places and we’ll either avoid public places or get used to living with BB.

9 nobugsonme October 26, 2009 at 12:35 pm

Hi cilecto,

I hear what you’re saying.

I suspect that the vast majority of public places which are being treated for bed bugs continue to remain open. (This makes them better, of course, than places which have bed bugs as yet unnoticed or which are noticed but aren’t being treated.)

In the case of hotels, I suspect the rooms may be re-let once treated. We can only hope in this case that –asssuming there were bed bugs in the first place — that treatment persists (since we know it can take multiple treatments).

10 cutefuzz98 March 19, 2010 at 6:36 pm

Lately I’ve heard a lot about bed bugs in the ua theater but in february of 2010. Is it true?

11 nobugsonme March 20, 2010 at 6:54 am

Hi cutefuzz98,

The above news report is from October 2009. We have no way of knowing the status of the situation right now.

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