Bed bugs infest penthouse of NYC coop; board sues owner/tenant to force treatment

by nobugsonme on February 7, 2013 · 7 comments

in bed bug lawsuits, bed bugs, bed bugs in condos and coops, new york city

A pricey Upper West Side apartment building at 39 W. 67th Street has a bed bug-infested penthouse, and the coop board is now suing the owner and her long-time tenant, for access to treat the room and “remove infested belongings,” according to the The New York Post:

The board of 39 W. 67th Street is hauling the penthouse’s owner and her rent-controlled tenant to court to prevent an alleged infestation of ‘5,000 to 10,000’ bedbugs from spreading throughout the 40-unit building, the Manhattan Supreme Court filing states.

The documents cite a Jan. 16 exterminator report that found ‘live bedbugs crawling on the walls in the middle of the day, which indicates that this is a ‘mega’ infestation.’

Judith Newman, an architect who owns the 15th-floor penthouse, and her tenant, 91-year-old Therese Hohmann, are charged with harboring the nasty pests.

But Newman told The Post she’s allowed two fumigations in Hohmann’s room and a third is scheduled for Feb. 14.

‘It hasn’t spread beyond her room. They did a barrier treatment, so it’s been contained,’ Newman said. She added that her elderly tenant has lived in the building since 1965.

“Mega infestation” — if that’s really what the report stated — isn’t (as far as I know) a technical term, though yes, seeing bed bugs during the day is not a good sign.

Clearly, the two treatments already done on the tenant’s room have not done the trick.  It sounds like the lawsuit is not aimed at further treatments in and of themselves (since Newman has already scheduled one for next week), but for the board to take control of the process.

I suspect there’s more to this story than we’ve heard so far.  It does not go without notice that this is a “rent-controlled tenant” (as the Post notes) — anyone in NYC would tell you that rent-controlled tenants in a Lincoln Square penthouse have a target on their backs.  But that doesn’t seem to explain this situation, since surely the owner would be the one we would expect  to try and drive the tenant out, not the board.

I have some questions for our bed bug experts out there about the description of the problem and treatment above:

  • If there really are “5,000 to 10,000” bed bugs in this bedroom can the spread of such a problem really have been prevented by a “barrier treatment” as claimed by the tenant?
  • What is a barrier treatment, anyway, where bed bugs are concerned?
  • Can the pest control firm really be so sure that the bed bug infestation has not gone beyond this one bedroom?

I’d welcome entomologists and pest management professionals to comment on those or other aspects of this story.   Other comments and feedback are also welcomed below!

The case goes to court today.


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1 Paul J. Bello February 7, 2013 at 1:40 pm

[moved from the forums:]

Dear nbs,

Hmmm . . . “mega-infestation” ?

Yes, I highly technical term no doubt.

And, “barrier treatment” , hmmm ? Does this include where they post those tiny signs around the room perimeter with the red circle and line through the bed bug type thing?

And, “10,000 bed bugs” limited to just one bedroom? Hmmmm . . .

OK, what we need to realize is that this is “a news story” and likey far affield frm the actual facts of the case.

As such, we’re probably ill served in our own speculations based upon information that we don’t know is factual and/or true.

Yes, there are some interesting terms presented in this story however, based upon my experience and observation in dealing with such situations as well as the media, overall I’ve found that the media folks live in a parallel universe where their intepretations of the facts are somehow distorted from their origination point via the journey through the time continuim space portal to the parallel universe from whence these reports eventually arise.

In any case, it will be interesting to see how this situation turns out once it has been resolved.

Have a nice day ! paul b.

2 nobugsonme February 7, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Hi Paul,

Yes, of course, the story in the Post may not be accurate (!!!) though the comments about the size of the infestation are said to be a direct quote from court documents (which I was unable to retrive as of now from the NYC (Manhattan) Supreme Court site.

3 Ci Lecto February 7, 2013 at 2:31 pm

The phrase “remove infested belongings” worries me. As veterans of Bedbugger know, expert PCOs advise that virtually all belongings can be successfully treated for bed bugs. The reality on the ground is that many landlords and exterminators place the brunt of bed bug eradication (short of the actual poison or steam application) on the tenant, ordering wholesale laundering (even though experts advise it is not always necessary), indefinite bagging of books and other valuables, even refusing to treat sofas. Onerous bed bug treatment and preparation can become a weapon in the hands of greedy or malicious landlords against tenants they do not like or whose rent-regulated apartments could fetch higher prices on renewal.

4 cilecto February 7, 2013 at 4:38 pm

or whose rent-regulated apartments could fetch higher prices on [strike]renewal[/strike] vacancy.

5 nobugsonme February 7, 2013 at 5:00 pm

Hi Cilecto,
You’re right about the “remove infested belongings” phrase. I was concerned about that too but did not get to comment on it, I am glad you did!

However, this case is confusing in terms of how the rent-controlled tenant plays in. She’s renting from a unit owner. So how would the board benefit from pushing her out?

6 Ci Lecto February 8, 2013 at 2:06 pm

I don’t know enough about this case to be able to guess at what’s actually going on, who’s saying and doing what and what people’s actual agendas are. I was just expressing concern over the idea of “removal” and its potential for abuse.

7 nobugsonme February 8, 2013 at 2:57 pm

I’m with you on that 100%, Ci!

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