Columbia Spectator on bed bugs, again with the HPD statistic soup

by nobugsonme on March 6, 2008 · 4 comments

in bed bugs, new york, new york city

This Columbia Spectator article focuses on the personal plight of some folks with bed bugs living near Columbia University. It’s a nice article bound to raise some awareness of the problem. But what interests me is the section citing HPD statistics on bed bugs in NYC.

It cites the city’s HPD stats on bed bugs (which again, do not line up with those provided by other publications):

Seth Donlin, press secretary for New York’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, said the city received 1,729 bedbug complaints and issued 437 violations to landlords in the last fiscal year. Community District 9, which stretches from 110th to 155th Streets, was “on the higher side,” Donlin said, receiving 216 complaints and issuing 53 violations.

The Daily News said in December, presumably of the same “last fiscal year” which ended last summer, that

In the fiscal year that ended in June, 6,889 infestation complaints were logged and 2,008 building owners were hit with summonses.

What’s with these numbers? Either the Daily News is wrong, or the Columbia Spectator is.

But even more interesting is the fact that, as the Spectator reports

Donlin added that renters with unresponsive landlords should calls the city’s non-emergency service line at 311 to “start a paper trail” in case the situation must be brought to court.

So a HPD representative actually spells out for a journalist the fact that people do not report their bed bug cases to HPD via 311 unless landlords are not responsive. It’s something you do if your landlord is ignoring your request for help, and then also if you are not afraid of alienating him/her for any reason (as filing a housing complaint might well do so).

Well, we sure knew that. And we know how very rarely people call 311, because we hear from people with bed bugs every day.

And yet every newspaper and their brother wants to tell everyone exactly how many bed bug cases NYC was hit with last year, and cites the 311 stats for evidence of how big or small the problem is.

I want to be clear that this is not a beef with the journalist at the Spectator, but a problem I am having with these HPD statistics (and the NYCHA statistics the Washington Post trotted out) and how well they mask the real numbers of bed bug sufferers in NYC. They make the problem seem quite small, and it is not.

The fact that the numbers are not consistent from article to article merely adds salt to my wounds.

But the real NYC bed bug story is that the city needs to start tracking infestations — and not via a housing complaint hotline — so we know exactly how many people are truly affected. My guess is if that happened, bed bugs would be a much bigger priority.

1 hopelessnomo March 7, 2008 at 12:52 am

I wasted a whole lot of time today on various city websites looking for the stats. They track the number of 311 calls regarding unleashed dogs, but no line items for bedbugs that I could find. I doubt the press office will give me the time of day. What’s an interested citizen to do, file a FOIA request?


2 nobugsonme March 7, 2008 at 10:51 am

For what it’s worth, the Daily News stats above have been cited in a number of the articles on bed bug dogs this week.

I just can’t believe anyone in the city government thinks they mean anything except that the problem is on the rise, quickly.

I saw 2 subway posters yesterday trying to get me to call 311– one was telling me I should call 311 instead of giving money to homeless people (I am not sure exactly what that was about–did not get a chance to get close and read the fine print), and a second telling me to call 311 to learn what can be recycled.

I am not suggesting they tell people to call 311 to file bed bug complaints, because it still won’t work–bed bugs need to be tracked independently of housing violations, and most people won’t call and report their landlord even if they know this is the number for it.

But I do think it is interesting that 311 is advertising why one might call (which is not common knowledge, as it turns out) and I am waiting for the bed bug signage to appear.

3 NYCBBSlayer December 14, 2008 at 2:46 am

Looking at this and the BB registry I am seeing that I am living in a hot BB zone. 109th and amsterdam is plauged by a bunch of infested buildings. I am currently in treatment and wondering about long term strategy with all thse infestations around here.

Is there hope just vacuuming, steaming, treating with chemicals twice every 14 days and once with biodegrable materials. I just receieved a major treatment and finished by caulking today.

Is there any hope in this hood?

4 nobugsonme December 14, 2008 at 3:19 am


Caulking can do a lot.

I recommend you copy and repost this on our Bedbugger forums where you will get more answers, including those from experienced pros. Click here:

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