Notes From The Bedbug Workshop

May 6, 2008 ·
Filed under: Bushwick, Greenpoint Magic, Williamsburg 

This evening I attended the HPD workshop conducted at the Greenpoint Reformed Church. Given the start time was 6:00 p.m. (and thus difficult for many people to attend), I was very pleased with the turnout. For those of you who were not able to be there but want to learn more, I took copious notes. Here they are.

The presentation was given by Edward Brownbear (the gentleman in the above photograph). He is the Lead Education Instructor for the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. What’s more, he himself has had bedbugs and provided a number of personal anecdotes as to how he fought them successfully.

The presentation (entitled Bed Bugs On The Move) broke into three components:

  1. Introduction
  2. Your rights as a tenant or landlord
  3. Pest management

INTRODUCTION: What Are Bedbugs?

Per Mr. Brownbear, in 2006 HPD received ~1,000 complaints about bedbugs. In 2007 that number shot up to ~3,500 – 4,000. Some of the hardest hit areas were Bushwick, Ridgewood, East Harlem and Harlem.

There are 91 species of bedbugs. New York City sports three of them. There is the “common” bedbug which is, as it name indicates, the most common. There is also the “tropical bedbug” which is more active in summer weather. I didn’t get the third one. Regardless of species, all varieties of bedbugs:

  1. Detect “heat signatures” from as far as three feet.
  2. Prefer to dine upon human blood (lactic acid, body heat and breath attract them).
  3. Cannot fly, but can crawl very quickly.
  4. Can carry disease but will not transmit (it has to do with how they feed which is very different than, for example, a mosquito).
  5. Can be difficult to detect because before feeding they are as flat as a piece of paper.
  6. Are nocturnal.
  7. Are attracted to fibers and wood.
  8. Can hibernate for up to 18 months.

Two reasons for the influx of bedbugs in New York City are as follows.

  1. Increased international travel.
  2. Reconditioned mattresses.

What is a reconditioned mattress? It’s probably not what you, dear readers, think. A reconditioned mattress is a mattress that has been dry cleaned and resold. That’s it. Although the law states that these mattresses are to be labeled with a yellow tag, they are often are not. Anyone who suspects that he (or she) has been sold a reconditioned mattress without proper disclosure should contact the Department of Consumer Affairs.

Bedbugs feed for approximately eight minutes, then fall off the human body and find a (preferably dark) place to digest to digest and make bedbug babies for seven days. Mr. Brownbear was reluctant to talk about Bedbug Sex Ed. 101, but the attendees insisted and an entomologist stepped up to the plate and gave us the deets. For those of you who have ever wondered how bedbugs do the nasty, today’s your lucky day!

The male bedbug does not have a penis. It has an appendage designed to stab the female bedbug in a “cleft” on the underside of her body. Underneath this cleft is a pocket— padding if you will— that protects her internal organs. This mating process is called “traumatic insemination”. Try that one at your next trivia night!

Females lay 3-5 eggs a day. The gestation period is ten days and the maturation period is five weeks. In her lifetime, a bedbug can lay 500 eggs. These eggs are 1/36 of an inch thick and are clear, thus they are very difficult to see. Bedbug babies are also translucent and measure approximately one millimeter thick.

Are Bedbugs Dangerous?

As I indicated earlier, they can carry disease but studies have shown they do not transmit them. However, people vary in regards to reactivity to bedbug bites. Even a dermatologist cannot tell the difference between a bedbug bite from that of a tick or mosquito. Those who have high sensitivity or conditions such as eczema will have more reactivity to bedbug bites. Others, however, will have little to no reaction at all.

It was at this point that one of the more terrifying points of this entire meeting (in my opinion) was brought up: bedbugs make good “hitchhikers”, e.g.; they can attach themselves to a person’s clothing and spread. Five different subway stations have turned up positive for bedbugs. Three of them (the ones Mr. Brownbear could recall) are:

  1. Fordham Road, Bronx
  2. Union Square, Manhattan
  3. Hoyt-Schermerhorn, Brooklyn

At the latter most they were found on a subway bench, which makes sense given it is has been established these little critters like wood.

YOUR RIGHTS AS A TENANT

Under New York City Housing Code bedbugs (just like roaches) fall under a level B violation with “A” being the lowest level of severity and “C” being the highest. Mr. Brownbear advised that anyone afflicted with bedbugs should call 311 and report them. However, he conceded that doing so presents a number of problems. Among them:

  1. The reaction time will be slow. HPD has 600 inspectors.
  2. Many people work and cannot stay home waiting for HPD to show up.
  3. The inspector actually has to see bedbugs “at large” in your apartment. Merely showing them bites and/or trapping bedbugs in a jar is not sufficient.
  4. This is problematic given that bedbugs are nocturnal and inspectors work conventional business hours, therefore…
  5. He advised that you look for hiding places, such as chest of drawers, under mattresses, etc. to show the inspector before he (or she) visits.
  6. Regardless if you are responsible for bringing bedbugs into your apartment or not, the landlord is legally obligated exterminate.

YOUR RIGHTS AS A LANDLORD/PEST MANAGEMENT

Not surprisingly, the landlord’s burden is pretty light. All he (or she) must do is provide proof that an exterminator was paid within 30 days of being cited. However, here are a few tips for tenants:

  1. Do your homework.
  2. A landlord is not to exterminate bedbugs. Only professional (as licensed by the D.E.C.) is qualified to spray for bedbugs.
  3. Multiple applications will be needed. Preferably once a week for three weeks.
  4. Leave your apartment for 6-8 hours after exterminating and come home.
  5. A non-toxic method was suggested:
    This product is readily available at hardware stores and only the “food grade” variety should be used. Simply put, is leeches moisture out of an insect’s (any insect’s) body, thus killing them. While deemed safe for people and pets, be sure to use take precautions for your furry friends (and in the case tonight scaly ones, e.g.; iguanas) and wear a mask while applying. Applications should be made every couple of weeks for maximum effect. Be sure your blankets do not touch the walls or floor, as these creepy little critters will try to take refuge in your bed.

It was at this point that the meeting started to wind down. Here are a few tips/items of interest worth passing along:

  1. When traveling, do not use suitcases: use soft-sided washable luggage.
  2. If you suspect you have luggage that might be infested, run it through a dryer at 120-130 degrees.
  3. Do bedbugs have natural predators? Yes they do, but it would take thousands of them to get rid of an infestation.
  4. Has the city ever intervened regarding a bedbug infestation? YES. There were two cases of a building-wide infestation in Bushwick. The Department of Health stepped in and tenants were evacuated from the building so it could be exterminated. Mind you, this is a rare occurrence.
  5. It was brought up by one attendee that NY1 be contacted to do a Q & A about bedbugs on a ‘call-in show”.
  6. NYC vs. Bedbugs was present with lots of useful information and a handy form letter you can fill out and send to David Yassky (our city councilman) to make known your concern about the bedbug problem in North Brooklyn.
  7. Someone asked if there was a “bedbug map” of New York City. Bedbuggers is the place to go.
  8. Ann Kansfield offered to help put together a media campaign to raise awareness about bedbugs and induce more action on the part of out city officials.
  9. I advised contacting our Representative, Joseph Lentol. I have contacted him in the past about quality of life issues in his district. He is very good with the constituent services. I speak from experience when I write this.

HPD gives a number of workshops. All are free for the asking. Some of the topics they cover (aside from bedbugs) are mold and mildew; roaches and vermin abatement and lead paint awareness. If anyone is interested in learning more about these workshops, Mr. Brownbear can be contacted at:

browned (at) hpd (dot) nyc (dot) gov

Miss Heather

The Greenpoint Food Pantry Needs Your Help

May 6, 2008 ·
Filed under: Greenpoint Magic 

Last weekend a colleague of mine and I discussed over lunch the dearth of new bloggers. I am of the opinion that the sour economy is a contributor to this phenomenon. Think about it: maintaining a web site requires time and money— and that is something not everyone has nowadays. Many are too busy trying to put dinner on the table.

Unfortunately, no amount of hard work is enough for a number of Greenpoint’s families to make ends meet. Hence why I was very disheartened (but hardly surprised) to read that the food pantry operated by the Greenpoint Reformed Church (the host of this evening’s bedbug workshop) is empty! Ann Kansfield writes Sunday, May 4, 2008:

This week we experienced an unprecedented need for food in our neighborhood. As the news continues to report troubling times for the economy (and our pantry was featured in Sunday’s Nowy Dziennik), we are witnessing first hand the effects that higher prices are having on our neighbors. After distributing 150 bags of food in the first two hours of the pantry being open, we ran out of food and sadly had to turn people away. We also fed more than 70 people at the soup kitchen, another record number of hungry folks.

…The church has already depleted its budget for the pantry and it’s only May. We need to raise $3000 to pay for an emergency purchase of groceries from our wholesaler so that we’ll have food to give out for the coming month until we get our next shipment from the Food Bank. We’re stepping out on faith, and placing the order so that there will be food on Wednesday. In the meantime, if those of us who are able could contribute to this effort, it would be greatly appreciated.

Donations can be made online or in person at 136 Milton St. Brooklyn, NY 11222. In addition, Ms. Kansfield, myself and the owner of Word Books have been knocking around the idea of organizing an arts and crafts fair and/or auction to benefit the food pantry. This idea is still in its infancy and we would love to hear from interested artists, craftspeople and local business owners who would be interested helping to make this happen.

Think of it as an opportunity to rack a up a few good karma points. Ms. Kansfield can be contacted via email at:

pastor (at) greenpointchurch (dot) org

And as always, ideas and/or constructive criticism are welcome via comments here on New York Shitty. I will make sure she gets them.

Miss Heather

Greenpoint Photo du Jour: Partying With The Captain

May 6, 2008 ·
Filed under: Greenpoint Magic 

From Herbert Street.

Miss Heather

There Has To Be A Word For This

May 6, 2008 ·
Filed under: Greenpoint Magic 

(Hell if I know what it is)

Chateau de Ghetto has been much livelier than usual. Perhaps the decisive breath of spring has made the residents of my 400 square foot palace —2-legged and otherwise— a bit rambunctious. All I can say is me and the Mister’s discussions arguments have taken a very colorful turn as a result.

CASE IN POINT

Our latest and most provocative skirmish centered around the following:

1. This handsome gent is Tortilla’s (now deceased) brother, Artemis. He is thirteen years old and spends most of his days lazing in the window watching the world go by. What he does in the evening, however, is a different story altogether. As you will see.

2. This is my jacket. I bought this item at a used clothing store several years ago. Not only does it look like a shag rug (which in the world of Miss H is a desirable quality— despite my mother telling me I was conceived on one), but it holds a certain attraction for Artemis. Which brings me to the following bit of choice dialog the Mister and I had last week.

Mr. Heather: You are not putting that on your blog.
Miss Heather: Yes I am.
Mr. Heather: It’s humiliating.
Miss Heather: Humiliating?!? He’s a cat! I seriously doubt he is going to care. Besides, it’s not my jacket’s fault.
Mr. Heather: Maybe the jacket likes it?
Miss Heather: My jacket is an inanimate object! Are you trying to tell me its asking for it?!? Your cat sexually assaults my jacket every night! It isn’t right.

Despite having lost his manly bits YEARS ago, this is what Artemis does when I leave my jacket where he can get to it. The festivities usually start at 11:30-12:30 at night (after he has taken it out to dinner, a movie and listening to a little Al Green I hope) and it stops only if/when I take this lascivious piece of apparel away from his grasp. There might be snow on the roof, but I assure you there is plenty of fire in this feline’s loins!

Perhaps Artemis has some unresolved masculinity issues as a result of having a female name? Maybe this article of clothing reminds him of some sexy she-cat from his tomcatting days? Only he knows for certain and he isn’t talking. All I’m saying is I had a guy offer to buy me a drink last Friday night while wearing said item. He even commented on how much he liked it.

The more I think about it, I do not think it was me this chap was attracted to. It was the jacket.

Miss Heather

Williamsburg Photo du Jour: In Bloom

May 6, 2008 ·
Filed under: Williamsburg 

From Graham Avenue.

Miss Heather

TOMORROW: HPD Comes To Greenpoint!

May 5, 2008 ·
Filed under: Greenpoint Magic, Williamsburg 

For those of you who are not fluent in Polish, tomorrow evening HPD will be conducting a workshop about bedbugs at the Greenpoint Reformed Church. To R.S.V.P. for this event please call (212) 863-8830.

Be there or be square!

Miss Heather

Happy Cinco de Mayo From New York Shitty!

May 5, 2008 ·
Filed under: Greenpoint Magic 

I kicked off the party a little early (read: last night) so I doubt I will be knocking back any margaritas today. That said, I thought I would give this great holiday a nod by sharing a little Greenpoint goodness I filmed yesterday on Meeker Avenue.

I am certain a number of you are familiar with this lot. It once housed a gas station but that was razed several years ago (one would presume to erect more “luxury” condos). This has clearly not happened— but that doesn’t mean this space isn’t being put to good use. After watching a chap on said premises knock back a brewski, I got a very special treat. Enjoy!

Wouldn’t you love to be this guy’s neighbor?

Miss Heather

Greenpoint Photos du Jour: Cute Overload On Cinco de Mayo

May 5, 2008 ·
Filed under: Crazy Cat Lady, Greenpoint Magic 

I came across a woman toting these ultra adorable kittens on Manhattan Avenue. She said she found them in a garage and they were headed to the vet for a check-up before going to their new homes.

This one was by far the most vocal. I am guessing he (or she) is their leader. Some may pan Greenpoint as being a dump, but I have to tell you; the Garden Spot makes them some damned cute kittens.

Miss Heather

Williamsburg Photo du Jour: North 4th Street

May 5, 2008 ·
Filed under: Williamsburg 

It is quite a rare occurence when I see something in a public restroom that compels me to run back and get my camera. And this is exactly what happened yesterday when I was dining at San Loco— much to my companions’ amusement and confusion.

The general perception is that Williamsburgers (and by implication, hipsters) are lazy. Nothing can be so far from the truth. As you can see this person is quite dedicated to dispensing free “cheap thrills”.

Miss Heather

Studio B: Where The Fun Never Stops

May 5, 2008 ·
Filed under: Greenpoint Magic 

My commenters are a very intelligent lot. Hence why I will open this post with a missive from addrobinson:

From everything I know about Studio B, other than the rooftop garden, none of this is new, the noise, the over capacity etc…. So what occurred recently that caused you to take such a strong stance against them?

Let’s imagine for a moment that I, a citizen, invited 140+ of my best friends to party on my rooftop (and I have a nice one, btw). Someone would call the cops and I’d be cited and/or thrown in jail.

In other words, it’s a matter of inequality. Studio B, despite having no permission to host events on their roof does so anyway. Nothing happens.

They have a Stop Work Order which they have not only seen fit to violate but have also removed from their front door. Once again, nothing happens.

Here is the garbage this establishment generates. Would you want to look at this 2-3 times a week? I didn’t think so. Will they get in trouble for this? Probably not.

At what point will the owners of this property, WS Delancey Realty LLC, be held accountable for their actions? Will it be today? They do, after all, have a hearing regarding their first (and undoubtedly not last) violation of their Certificate of Occupancy on this, Cinco de Mayo.

In closing here is a little footage I shot of this establishment yesterday afternoon. Note that the music they are playing is loud enough to be picked up by my dinky little digital camera from across the street.

Miss Heather

P.S.: Be Sure to check out my buddy 11222’s take on Studio B’s grand opening of their rooftop by clicking here.