Bed bugs bite in White Plains, NY public housing

by nobugsonme on July 14, 2008 · 5 comments

in bed bug bites, bed bug education, bed bug treatment, bed bugs, bed bugs in public housing, landlords and tenants, new york

Residents of White Plains Housing Authority buildings are being bitten by bed bugs, according to this article in The Journal News (via White Plains Housing Authority officials say last year they “exterminated” for bed bugs in 47 of the 745 apartments they manage, and that as many as 15% may still be infested.

In my experience, however, tenants are very likely to either (a) not notice, (b) not report, or (c) try to self-treat bed bug problems. The actual rate of infestations in WPHA buildings is likely much higher.

Tenants say the number may be higher because many of them exterminate their apartments themselves without reporting the problem, with mixed results.

“They come back because they’re in the walls,” [Winbrook housing complex tenant Louise] Clark said. “It comes and goes. When it gets hot – it’s hot now – they come out. I keep spraying.”

Bobbie Sherill, who lives in a WPHA complex on Lake Street, took her complaint to the mayor’s office:

“I got up at 1 a.m. They’re on my couch,” she said outside Mayor Joseph Delfino’s City Hall office, where she went looking for help. “Where am I going to go after that? You shouldn’t have to live like that. We’re not animals.”

Housing Authority officials claim they’re trying to treat Sherill’s unit:

“We’ve attempted to get into her unit several times,” [Housing Authority executive director Mack] Carter said about Sherrill. “She’s not available or we’re not allowed in.”

Sherrill said the authority offered to exterminate her apartment on the day before Thanksgiving last year, an offer she rejected because she was hosting for the holiday. Instead, she began spraying her mattress with bleach and hot water every morning, which proved ineffective.

The county Department of Health recently told Sherrill it doesn’t respond to bedbug complaints because they don’t carry diseases and so are considered a nuisance rather than a public health problem. The county referred her to the city, which led her to Delfino’s office this month, where an aide took her number and promised to get back to her.

In the meantime, Carter said he will meet with his staff to discuss whether to abandon a policy that requires tenants who can afford extermination, which typically costs $100, to pay for the work.

“We’re doing everything we possibly can,” Carter said. “At some point, the residents have to take some responsibility, too.”

Tenants do need to report bed bug infestations, and cooperate with and prepare for treatment.

They also need to be educated about bed bugs. It’s understandable that someone might resist treatment the day before Thanksgiving. It’s unclear, if this was the case, why the treatment was not offered in the days following the holiday.

The Housing Authority is not just responsible for keeping Sherill’s home bed bug-free, they also have a responsibility to protect other tenants. If someone truly does refuse bed bug treatment (which does not sound like the case here), then there must be additional steps taken.

I would strongly urge WPHA to abandon the pest control charges for tenants. Yes, $100 for a pest control treatment might not seem like much, but keep in mind that when bed bugs come back repeatedly, tenants may either feel they can’t afford to keep paying, or they may feel treatment is not working, so why bother?

And $100 is a lot when you’re on a budget and when the actual cost of preparations for treatment (including laundering and bagging clothing) can be much higher and be required again and again.

What is needed in a complex with multiple active bed bug infestations is aggressive inspections and treatments. It is not enough to wait for tenants to call and report problems; in many cases, where tenants are not allergic to bed bug bites, they will never know, until problems are very far gone.

Ultimately, housing authorities and other building managers need to be more proactive about bed bug infestations in some of their units. They need to consult experts, such as entomologists who specialize in bed bugs, and formulate better plans for dealing with this (preferably before it comes up, or in the early stages). In the long run, it will save the management and tenants a lot of time, money, and heartache.

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1 James Buggles July 14, 2008 at 3:40 pm

What this blog has made painfully clear over the past year and a half is the incredible lack of knowledge not only among everyday people, but also among those who should know better, especially politicians. Delfino is a competent mayor, but he cares more about business development than the poor. The best way to pique his interest would probably be to explain that the poor can transfer them to his well-heeled constituents.

2 Maria September 9, 2008 at 11:08 am

I completely agree with the argument posted by the author. Coming from someone who is suffering the pains of bedbugs in the housing units, It is expensive and time consuming to have to go through preparations, which include money and time for all the laundry in the house, and to basically turn your house inside out. In the end the same process and heartache will have to be repeated in a couple of weeks after the treatment. I have done everything by the books, I have notified housing twice about the problem and I have prepared both times. I have also lost all my beddings, and mattress because of the problem and have been sleeping in air mattresses since the ordeal began. I am proof that the approach housing is taking is not efficient and a temporary fix for a problem so serious. It is very discouraging to hear that housing points to “personal responsibility” for a problem that is being encountered by many Americans across the country with no avail.Definetly a more agresive and collective aproach needs to be taken by housing and by the mayor since the problem is wide spread through out
White Plains.

3 Betty Cruz-Roman July 10, 2010 at 9:03 pm

I do not live in public housing but I do live on Bank Street White Plains. Every single unit in my apartment building is infested with bed bugs. I live in a three section building and had I known about this problem I would not have taken the apartment. I am an obsessively clean person and when I noticed these little critters I got quezzy and began spraying bed bug spray which serves no purpose. Supposedly the owner has an exterminating company come twice a month and there is a sign posted in the lobby but he never knocks on anyones’ door It looks good on paper, the management company is surely covering their behand, but the reality is that the building is not being treated and the owners are negligent. I often see the other residents in the hall and they complain to me about their infestation. After my persistence with the landlord they finally came to give me a thourough treatment but did not inform me of how to prepare for one. I took off the day from work and after calling the management office three times for an appointment that they scheduled for about 10am the exterminator finally showed up at 3pm. he sprayed a little and left the problem still exist. We should not have to live like this It does feel like you are being invaded. I have learned to deter roaches with cleanliness but how do you deter bedbugs

4 nobugsonme July 11, 2010 at 1:35 am

HI Betty,

I am sorry you are going through this. When an entire building is infested, it is very hard to get rid of bed bugs. All infested units need treatment, and this is usually done all at once.

Please come to our active user forums if you would like more support or suggestions from others who’ve been in similar situations.

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