Iraq vet battling bed bugs in Brooklyn; the HPD problem

by nobugsonme on September 14, 2010

in bed bug epidemic, bed bugs, bed bugs in low-income housing, brooklyn, hpd, landlords and tenants, new york city, spread of bed bugs

While bed bugs can strike any location, tenants in low-income housing are particularly susceptible, because their landlords may be especially prone to postponing treatment or cutting corners on it. I am not discounting the problem of landlords being unable to pay for proper treatment in some cases, though this is not universally the cause of such negligence.

We often hear references to veterans living with bed bugs in low-income housing of various kinds. The recent Epoch Times story about the Vigilant Hotel, a Chelsea SRO, told the story of Chris Lugo, who served as an Army paratrooper in Afghanistan, and who was asked to leave the hotel after trying to kill the bed bugs present.

Today, the Daily News features the story of Jerry Cruz, a Navy veteran of the war in Iraq, who says he is forced to live in a pickup truck due to a serious bed bug infestation in his Bedford-Stuyvesant apartment:

Cruz blamed building owner Isaac Fischman for not exterminating the bedbugs the ex-sailor said migrated from another tenant’s apartment to his.

“It’s absolutely disgusting,” said Cruz, 41. “I told him, ‘Why don’t you move in here with your family for a week or two and see if you can take it.’

Note: while I understand the desperation that drove Cruz to live in his truck, I want to mention that moving into your car is not recommended; bed bugs are easily moved from one place to another, whether that place is a room, an apartment or a vehicle.

The article says other tenants in the building claim they also have bed bugs, and that the landlord is not responsive.

“You sit there a few minutes and you’ll feel them crawling on you,” said Cruz. “I’m here fighting another war.”

Some people still don’t get how difficult it is to live with or to eliminate bed bugs. Perhaps hearing about the plight of this Iraq veteran will drive that message home.

Although as the Daily News notes, there are many open violations recorded by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development for for 797 Putnam Ave. in Brooklyn, I found that only one apartment has a recorded HPD violation for bed bugs.

I also note that though there has recently been one other HPD complaint, it is not clear if it was investigated and discounted, or not investigated by HPD. (You can check a building’s HPD complaint history and open violations here; remember that many tenants may report problems to landlords directly, and their complaints will only be shown here if they instead or also contact the city directly.)

Note that the Daily News spoke to at least two neighbors who claimed to have bed bugs.

If a landlord has been notified of the presence of bed bugs and is not taking action, tenants should consider calling 311 (HPD) and filing a complaint. However, many people are afraid to call and officially report a problem with bed bugs, fearing there may be repercussions from the landlord, or that they will be blacklisted from other NYC rentals.

And therein lies a serious problem: the city can do nothing if people do not complain, but the choice to complain is not a simple one for tenants. If the city can’t find a way around that conundrum, this problem is going to continue to spread like wildfire.


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